Pippa Middleton 'hacker' sheds light on illicit community profiting from celebrity extortion

Pippa Middleton's iCloud account was reportedly sabotaged by hackersClive Brunskill/Getty Images

The mysterious figure at the centre of a plot to sell thousands of photos hacked from the personal iCloud account of Pippa Middleton has claimed he had "no intention" of selling the images to the UK press and was only using the media to gain exposure.

Under the online pseudonyms "Crafty Cockney" and "Mas", the man in question contacted tabloid newspapers, including The Sun and the Daily Mail, and gave them 48 hours to make bids on 3,000 personal photos stolen from Middleton's iCloud account, asking for at least for £50,000.

Within seven hours, Crafty Cockney was in negotiations with several UK outlets, he claimed in an interview with Vocativ. The contact told the publication he was simply using the outlets to generate attention in the US.

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"The UK press played into our hands. I had no intention of selling them anything," he said via an encrypted chat. "They have printed their authenticity. That's half the difficulty done for me. That was the plan from the start."

Roughly 24 hours after the conversation, Scotland Yard made an arrest in the case. Details of the man – who has been named as 35-year-old Nathan Wyatt from Northamptonshire – matched a "previously known" description of the hacker, Vocativ reported.

According to the Daily Mail, the suspect has since been released on bail.

Interestingly, the man using the Crafty Cockney moniker said that he was not responsible for hacking Middleton's personal account – instead claiming to simply be a middleman in the sale of the images – which reportedly included family pictures of members of the UK royal family.

"I'm not a hacker," he said, "Neither did I commit the hack. I'm of the community, but in all honesty I surprise myself I managed to get simple encryption working."

He continued: "Not to stereotype, but your average hacker or anyone really with a high intellect finds it hard to communicate outside their own social circles... so they come to me for a way to turn what they consider value into actual money. Simply put, I'm a middle man/translator for the community."

When asked by Vocativ if he knew how the hacker gained access to the images, he said: "I have no knowledge by choice... the reason being it would have no bearing on anything I do in regards to my help to broker a deal with whomever it would be."

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If his claims are legitimate, it provides an insight into the underground world – or "community" – populated by those who hack, trade, and make money from the theft of celebrity photos. Such online accounts have become a frequent target for hackers in recent years.

In the most well-known example from August 2014, often referred to as "The Fappening" a number of public figures, including actors Kate Upton and Jennifer Lawrence, fell victim to spearphishing cyberattacks that eventually exposed a slew of private pictures to the web.

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