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Cyber War on Women. Aired 7:30-8p ET

Aired May 09, 2015 - 19:30   ET


[19:30:02] LAURIE SEGALL, CNN MONEY TECH CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Do you remember the dream you had when you showed up to school completely naked, you felt so humiliated? Then you woke up, and you thought thank god, that was just a dream.

What if I told you there were people, mainly women, who are living out that nightmare everyday. To them, it feels like their naked images are splashed on billboards for anyone to see.

Now take that mentality and apply it to the internet where there's an underground movement devoted to exposing you in your most private moments. There' even a name for it. Revenge Porn.

Think of it as nonconsensual pornography. Naked photos, usually of women, wind up on the web without their consent. The aim to shame and humiliate them. There are a lot of ways it can happen. The one you probably heard of, a bitter ex posts a private photo online, a picture you thought no one would ever see.

Then there are the hackers who can take control of your web cam to record images or hack your inbox to find them. A private selfie can become a viral sensation. Maybe you never even took a compromising photo of yourself. Well, you can still wind up naked online, thanks to Photoshop. Your head on someone else's body.

These pictures are posted on websites devoted to Revenge Porn. Then they're picked up by third party sites. It is not long until they're everywhere.

I know what you're thinking, don't take a naked photo, don't send a selfie, it could happen to me. What if I told you it could be out of control. Hackers are getting smarter and the market for these images is even getting bigger.

Here's the naked truth. It can happen to anyone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll seem like I'm a sociopath, but if I say it gave a rush. It doesn't feel real.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Law enforcement straight up told me how do you want us to help you, how do you think we can possibly help you?

UNIDENTIFED MALE: I really describe it similar to the feeling of getting raped.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you can just hang or do whatever. What if I busted out into the running man right now?

SEGALL: This is Nikki. She's young, she's beautiful. You would never know she has this secret that every time she meets you, every time she applies for a job she wonders if you know, if you googled her.

NIKKI RETTELLE, REVENGE PORN VICTIM: This is one of the sites.

These are ones that are surreptitiously recorded me.

SEGALL: He tagged it naked lingerie.


SEGALL: If I were to Google your name, what would come up?

RETTELLE: You would feel close to me, feel like maybe we even slept together. You would see me naked.

SEGALL: It dates back to a guy she sarcastically calls Mr. Wonderful. You'll see why.

RETTELLE: I had some troubles doing some accounting homework, and he popped up and he said "Hey, I just took accounting not long ago and I was pretty good at it. I could help you with some of the basics." Within two and a half months of spending time with this gentleman, he lost it.

SEGALL: The strangest thing happened. Nikki started seeing red lights all around her room. One of them was coming from a pen holder.

RETTELLE: I don't know what made me unscrew it. Because I never heard of a pen cam at that point in time, and I had never seen one, but something compelled me to unscrew it. And as soon as it opened up and there was a memory card in there, my world started spinning.

SEGALL: You are looking at moments that you don't even think could be recorded. What goes through your head?

RETTELLE: I felt as if nowhere was private any more. Never dawned on me that that would end up being put online with my personally identifiable information in a campaign against me. It didn't dawn on me that people did that.

SEGALL (voice-over): People do. And those images taken without consent were posted all over the web. Her case is an extreme example of Revenge Porn. Advocacy groups refer to it as nonconsensual pornography and they consider it a form of sexual abuse.

For the next few years, Nikki's most private images would flood websites devoted to revenge porn. It wil be picked up by third party sites, her naked images were everywhere.

RETTELLE: So this is some sort of flash app that he utilized to make a spinning sphere of various pictures of me. Dirty girl. Loose whore. Sucks a lot of... you can imagine. I would stay up almost all every night just finding more and more and more. Law enforcement straight up told me how do you think that we can possibly help you.

[19:35:02] SEGALL: And that's the million dollar question when it comes to Revenge Porn. So what law is being broken? That's not always clear much and that's why states are beginning to pass laws to criminalize this type of online harassment. For Nikki's lawyer, Elisa, the cases are pouring in.

ELISA D'AMICO, ATTORNEY: It's becoming an epidemic. So what do we do with Nikki? We asked her what page is your information on. Here are the four URLs. Here's one, she had hundreds.

SEGALL (on camera): Would you say it affected your ability to get a job?

RETTELLE: It affected my ability to walk into any interview. The second I walked in, shook their hand, sat down, looked them in the face, I just wanted to look away, crawl under a rock and die because I don't know what they've seen, if they've seen anything and I didn't know how to bring it up. I wasn't present.

SEGALL (VOICE-OVER): Nikki isn't an outlier, pull back the curtain, people all around the country -- there are people dealing with this kind of harassment. We went to Chicago to meet a woman who lives in fear of retaliation for telling her story.

Pictures and video she took with her now ex-husband ended up on dozens of revenge porn sites. A video recorded on her honeymoon, now a viral sensation.

"JANE", REVENGE PORN VICTIM: One of the videos, there are a million views. I felt so exposed and I really describe it similar to the feeling of getting raped.

SEGALL (on camera): Was law enforcement supportive of you?

"JANE": They basically told me there was nothing I could do and that next time don't be identifiable.

RETTELLE: From him, I plan to launch the website. What do you think mom and dad will say when they see our little girl sucking and screaming?

SEGALL: What's it like to have no control over what someone sees about you?

RETTELLE: Have you ever heard of shame or dignity? I lost those and I didn't think I would ever figure out how to regain shame, dignity, respect for myself.

SEGALL: If you could look at him right now, what would you say to him?

RETTELLE: Thank you. I would tell him thank you for absolutely forcing me to become the most amazing version of me that I never would have expected or known existed or would exist. I love me. For the first time in my entire existence and it is because of the character building that I was forced to do because of this.

SEGALL (voice-over): But what if you didn't even know the person who got their hands on your naked photos? It's happened.

24 years old. She took a selfie. She didn't send it to anyone but herself. It was meant for no one. But somehow it ended up all over the web.

CHARLOTTE LAWS, MOTHER OF REVENGE PORN VICTIM: My daughter's topless picture ended up on the most notorious Revenge Porn website. She had taken photos in the mirror with her cell phone, sent them through her e-mail, and had no intention of ever showing that topless picture to anyone.

SEGALL: Until a hacker named Charlie Evans broke into her inbox. He sold her photo to Hunter Moore, a man dubbed king of Revenge Porn. Moore built a career targeting women, and posting their nudes on his site. When he needed more pictures, he hired Evans to hack into women's private accounts. The site became notorious. Those days would end when they took on Charlotte's daughter.

(on camera): When you got the call as a mom, how did you react?

LAWS: Just to see my daughter in tears over this and I felt so helpless. I talked to nine attorneys at the beginning. They didn't have a clue about what to do.

SEGALL: You kind of take this to a new level as a mother. I mean, you became this private investigator.

LAWS: I had a huge box, like a 12 inch box of information, I had found victims all over the country who had been hacked by the same hacker and so I was able to give this information to the FBI.

Here are some samples from his site. If you sent a letter saying I think I am going to kill myself, he would post the suicide letter on the site next to your nude pictures, and then followers would encourage you to kill yourself.

SEGALL (voice-over): Taking on Hunter Moore means taking on his cult like following. They go by a #thefamily.

LAWS: I have gotten death threats, I had a stalker at my house on two separate evenings.

SEGALL: For weeks, I tried over and over again to get in touch with Charlie Evans, the man who hacked Charlotte Laws' daughter and so many other women.

I tried him one last time after leaving Charlotte's home. He answered. Standing down the street from a woman whose life was turned upside down by the hacking you did. When it comes down to it, just why? CHARLIE EVANS, HACKER: He offered me money. I was in a bad place.

Saidno for about eight months. Got fired from my job for drinking.

[19:40:03] SEGALL: When you talked to some of these victims and you see that their lives are ruined and that they have no ability to get this kind of stuff down, I mean, do you regret it?

EVANS: What I did then was horrible, and I am going to spend two to three years in prison for that. I'm OK with that.

SEGALL: But they said that you were addicted to hacking.

EVANS: Yes, actually, my first rehab was for that.

I know it kind of sounds like a cop out, but it was.

SEGALL: What was it like the first time you hacked into a woman's Facebook or Twitter account or inbox? What went through your head?

EVANS: That's a loaded question. Because I'll seem like a sociopath, but gave me a rush.

SEGALL: You seem like a sociopath. At least it is honest.

EVANS: It doesn't feel real. When I am in my room, lights off, door locked, drinking, I don't feel the consequences. If I had to look at somebody in the face and do that, you know, it would be a different story.

SEGALL (voice-over): Dr. Gail Saltz is a clinical psychiatrist. She says it is a disconnect that breeds this new type of harassment.

DR. GAIL SALTZ, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: The fact you can't see the person's facial expression, you can't see the reaction in the moment really removes it from the kind of empathy and sensitivity that we are normally as human beings would have with each other.

EVANS: I did it for money. Again, that makes me sound like a monster.

SEGALL (on camera): How much money? Was the money that good?

EVANS: No, it is scary how quickly I would drop my morals for so little. You know, how much those women were worth. It was like 500 a week, a thousand a week. I mean, it was really my habit. Mental gymnastics to be able to live with your self.

SEGALL (voice-over): Coming up, imagine sending your nude photos to the government.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's see there were a lot of topless photos, a lot in bed.

I guess simulating sexual acts.

SEGALL: Revenge Porn forced this woman to copyright pictures of her naked body.



SEGALL (voice-over): Picture this, you're in a long term relationship. You may have shared photos of yourself. Welcome to the 21st century. It is the age of smartphones. Snap shot even selfie stick. But what if some of these private pictures went public without your permission. After all, on the web nothing disappears. What protections do you have? Would the law help you? Meet Hillary.


SEGALL: She is not going to show her face because well she was exposed in a lot of other ways.

HILLARY: There were all sorts of photos in the course of my relationship. It was long distance. It was uncomfortable at first, but I figured you're in love, why not.

SEGALL: To make the long story short, the relationship ended and her ex posted those intimate photos all over the web.

In her extreme case, the only way she could fight it was to send the actual images of her naked body, here to the government. We asked a lawyer why.

DAVE BATEMAN, ATTORNEY: You have to get a registration that acknowledges that you are the owner of that copyright before you can go to court on it. It is a little ironic sometimes that people who are trying to protect their privacy in these photographs have to go to the federal government to get the registration for the photographs for the copyright.

SEGALL (on camera): Can you describe just like the nature of the pictures that you had to upload?

HILLARY: Let's see, there were a lot of topless photos, a lot in bed, I guess simulating sexual acts. I mean, like every body part you can think of multiple times.

SEGALL: What exactly happened when you tried to copyright the pictures?

HILLARY: What they do is you have to upload images as part of the mandatory deposit so that they know what your copyright is. When we got to that part, I thought this must be wrong. I don't have to send them as well, they're forcing me to expose them further when that's what I was trying to prevent.

The feeling at the time was not only humiliating and dehumanizing but you also feel very vulnerable.

SEGALL (voice-over): Revenge Porn is on the rise with hackers that can break into your inbox and steal private photos and sites hungry for nude images. It can happen to anyone. Here is where things get complicated. If you're a victim, there's no one size fits all solution to protect yourself.

You can file a take down notice, but it doesn't mean the site will take it down. The site will comply, you can sue. But to do that, you got to register the copyright, which brings us to the cold, hard truth, and the most extreme case, you got to send pictures of your naked body to the copyright office, that's in Washington.

If you're hacked or if those images were stolen, law enforcement can get involved. But take your case to court, there's a good chance the judge hasn't even heard of Revenge Porn. Because it is all new territory, states are just now criminalizing it. 17 as of this month.

Daliah Saper is an intellectual property lawyer who has handled Revenge Porn cases.

DALIAH SAPER, ATTORNEY, SAPER LAW: The internet -- it became so ubiquitous. We have traditional laws that have been around for hundreds of years and we're applying them to this new platform and every day a new platform shows up.

OK. So we've mastered Facebooks and we've mastered Youtube. I don't have to tell a judge what Facebook is anymore. Which by the way had to do three years ago.

SEGALL: But creating the new laws can be tricky. If they're too vague, there can be unintended consequences to free speech. Without those laws, copyrights are another option.

So I decided to call the copyright office to understand the process a little bit better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the Copyright Office, may I help you?

SEGALL (on camera): If I wanted to register the copyright of some images of myself, what does that entail?

[19:50:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whoever took the images, owns the rights to them.

SEGALL (voice-over): I cut right to the chase.

(on camera): I know it's a weird question but what if they were naked images?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, the office has no issue with that. Of course we don't have naked children.

SEGALL (voice-over): So I posed the question, what if the photos were posted online without my permission, would there be any specific protections for me? Could I redact them?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know that you can redact a photograph. Let me ask, because I'm not sure about that.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: All lines are currently busy. Please hold and your call will be answered by the next available --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for your patience in holding. I called someone from the visual arts section, one of the visual art specialists. They said they do not have a method for redacting photos. I was telling them your situation.

They said, actually bit of advice is to send the photo as it appears. It would be a stronger case in an infringement.

SEGALL: So it would be my best interest to upload the full naked photo.


SEGALL (voice-over): She was certainly sensitive to the situation. Unfortunately, but this is how copyrighting any image works, and if you needed to sue a website to take down an image, this is the way to do that. No exceptions.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: You'd imagine if the founding fathers were around today, it might be in the constitution, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and you would add on and your online presence. Because it's so important to people.

SEGALL: Coming up, naked photos everywhere.

(on camera): So there's a rich community of just naked photos being bought and sold?

CHRIS HADNAGY, ETHICAL HACKER: Most of time these guys are harvesting these and trading them like baseball cards.

SEGALL (voice-over): An underground trade and women have no idea they're being seen by thousands.


[19:56:16] SEGALL (voice-over): A young girl, wearing glasses, she's nude, and crying in front of her webcam. According to this site, only accessible through the dark web, she's been hacked and blackmailed into stripping for a live audience.

HADNAGY: So it says this white girl is blackmailed to take off her clothes on webcam. And then she refuses in the beginning, but after a while, she has no choice. You don't want to imagine what they did, but they probably told her they were going to tell her family or somehow embarrass her and humiliate her, so she made the choice to go ahead with their request.

SEGALL: We don't know who she is or where she lives. She could be anywhere in the world, but her most private moments are now exposed. An underground community is emerging, one devoted to humiliating women. She's one of thousands exploited on this particular site. Their photos and videos available for sale or trade.

HADNAGY: Look at the name of this guy, abuses, humiliates passed out girls.

SEGALL (on camera): Drunken girl, date-raped and left in a field.

(voice-over): Chris Hadnagy is what they call a good hacker. He looks for vulnerabilities on the web, like this particular site, where women are being exploited.

HADNAGY: For a mere $55, you get this download link to get all of these videos.

SEGALL: So there's a rich community of just naked photos being bought and sold?

HADNAGY: Most of the time these guys are harvesting them and trading them like baseball cards.

SEGALL: How vast is this?

HADNAGY: Unfortunately, what we've seen is an increase in the sites that offer these types of things.

SEGALL: Yes, so you don't have to take a naked photo of yourself, you could still be a victim of revenge porn?

HADNAGY: You could. There's a trojan that's out on the web. You can buy if for a few dollars. And if someone were to send you an email and you would have you click on it, it would install in your computer and you would never know it's there and it would give the hacker remote access to turn on and off your webcam and at will.

SEGALL: So this girl has no idea that people are looking back at her.


SEGALL (voice-over): Dr. Gail Saltz says this is a new frontier for an old perversion.

SALTZ: This is like the next generation of the peeping tom. It's voyeurism. It's wanting to look at somebody particularly who doesn't know you're looking.

SEGALL: It's a dangerous community and cracking down on it is difficult. The dark web was designed to be anonymous.

HADNAGY: One of the things you can find very easily on the dark web is a site like this. So for about 200 euros, you can rent a hacker to do small jobs. If you read this, I'll do anything for money. If you want me to destroy someone's business or personal life, I'll do it.

SEGALL (on camera): So what do you do about the dark web? I mean if I were a parent and that were my daughter --

HADNAGY: There's not much you can do. A lot of times we see that men are the instigators of this. So it's teaching men respect. It's teaching your son's respect for women and what's acceptable and what's not. SEGALL: You've seen tonight how revenge porn can ruin lives. When private photos are made public, there's very little the law or technology can do to repair the damage. Revenge Porn is part of a larger problem, behind the computer screen, you can become desensitized, you can lose your sense of empathy. That human element.

But that human element can stop revenge porn too. Digital communities, major tech companies are taking a stand against revenge porn. Twitter recently came out in front of it. Reddit was the first to say we are banning revenge porn from our site. The internet can be a scary place, but we are all a part of shaping it and that's the naked truth.

I'm Laurie Segall, for CNN Money.