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The Internet hunt for ‘Original Guy,’ alleged leaker of naked celeb pics, becomes a ‘nightmare’ for Georgia programmer

Internet sleuths have dubbed the culprit “Original Guy,” the person or persons responsible for hacking and stealing the nude pictures of scores of Hollywood celebrities. Original Guy has been variously reported “on the run” from the FBI, lying low in a “hideout,” searching frantically for a lawyer, and “defiant,” threatening to release more photos unless he gets paid off — in bitcoin, of course.

One story describes Original Guy as a “collector who gradually added to his haul over months before suddenly deciding to post it online” — “one well-connected figure in underworld porn forums.”

Another suggested Original Guy wasn’t a just a guy, but “a loose gang of hackers working independently and trading to create the collection” of intrusive, intimate photographs such as the ones turned loose over the weekend of Jennifer Lawrence, Kirsten Dunst and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

Whoever Original Guy is, there’s an Internet mob on the loose looking for him on sites such as Reddit and 4chan, where the pictures reportedly first showed up. Judging from the zeal of the pursuit, Original Guy may have more to fear from them than from the FBI.

A programmer from Atlanta named Bryan Hamade learned that this week when sleuths on Reddit and other sites decided he was Original Guy. Hamade, a.k.a. “BluntMastermind” on Reddit, is described as a 27-year-old computer programmer working for a company in Lawrenceville, Ga. In the frenzied hunt, according to BuzzFeed and other news outlets, Hamade had been hawking the pictures on Reddit and had posted a screenshot of his computer to show off the leaked picture folder.

The word traveled across the continents in a matter of hours. News outlets from the United States, Britain, Australia and India spread the word — and Hamade’s name — with headlines identifying him as “the main suspect” and “the culprit.”

Hamade, who graduated from Collins Hill High School in 2005, was identified as responsible for the massive leak by members of the online community on the website Reddit,” reported the Gwinnett Daily Post, which covers Gwinnett County in Georgia. Reporters showed up at his mother’s home, where he reportedly lives, and — just as reporters do after any crime — interviewed neighbors. Reported the Daily Post:

Calls to his parents’ house went unanswered as news trucks gathered outside. Neighbors Fiona Fraley, 17, and Chris Atkins, 16, said they were surprised about the accusations against Hamade. ‘They’re quiet people,’ Fraley said, adding that Hamade ‘just had a baby girl. ‘They don’t talk very much. If you see them on the street and say hello they’re nice, but other than that, they keep to themselves.’ Added Atkins: ‘They’re generally very nice people.’

Meanwhile, Twitter went wild. “Bryan Hamade is the new Julian Assange,” said one tweet. ” “#BryanHamade must be upset that his picture is being spread all over the Internet, violating his privacy,” said another.

Hamade finally got in touch with BuzzFeed and Britain’s Daily Mail. He acknowledged obtaining some of the pictures and trying to hawk them for bitcoin, but he denied he was Original Guy.

“I am not behind this. It was so stupid — I saw a lot of people posting the actual leaks and bitcoin addresses and I’ve read a lot about bitcoin and how they are valuable and I thought, ‘Oh cool I’ll get free bitcoins,’” he told BuzzFeed. “I am just an idiot who tried to pull one over on 4chan and lost big time and stupidly left this identifying information. They took my proof and back traced it — it isn’t remotely true. I am not a hacker. I have no idea how the hell someone could hack into all those accounts.”

He told BuzzFeed he and his family have been harassed by 4chan users since his allegedly Photoshopped post went live.

“It’s been a nightmare and I haven’t slept in 34 hours now,” he said. “4chan users are harassing me with nonstop phone calls and emails. They email me constantly, emailing saying they’ll hack my personal websites and keep calling.”

Hamade was repentant.

“I regret it so much,” he said. “I didn’t even get any bitcoin out of it. It’s the stupidest thing I’ve done and I hope it won’t ruin my life, though it probably will since it’s just the biggest news story.”

Fred Barbash, the editor of Morning Mix, is a former National Editor and London Bureau Chief for the Washington Post.



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