The 5 Most Scandalous Phone-Hacking Stories of 2011

Take a cue from the famous: Learn how not to be victimized

5 Scandalous Phone Hacks

Smartphones make life more interesting. Can you even remember a time when you couldn’t call your mom, text your brother, take a picture of your bare chest in the mirror and play a video game simultaneously? We’ve turned the corner on tizight and there’s no stopping the train.

Unless, of course, you become embroiled in a phone-hacking scandal.

While that would never happen to you (right?), other mortals make the mistake of not securing their mobiles. If there’s one thing that levels the playing field between regular folks and celebrities, it’s phone-hacking stories. The only difference is that no one but you and your frenemy know about how your phone was hacked and that mirror shot was sent to mom "by mistake." Ouch.

2011 was a rich year for phone-hacking stories, unfortunately. However, you can learn from the following mistakes and start the New Year with a clean slate (literally, if you take the "back up and delete" route).

News International debacle

How do you destroy a major newspaper that has been in business for 168 years? You call them out on a decade of violating the privacy of those in the public eye — including the royal family, celebrities and crime victims. News of the World was just one of the publications involved in this shocking betrayal of public trust. The latest casualty report from this mish mash of a hack casserole identified 800 people, making it the mac daddy of phone-hacking stories in 2011.

The timeline is long and complicated, but worth reviewing for its intricacy and educational value. A well-referenced Security Week infographic outlines in stark detail the many steps and people involved in this sordid tale of underhanded journalism. The one positive to this story is a heightened awareness about just how easy it is to hack someone’s cell phone.

Scarlett Johansson sizzles

In September, digitally purloined photos from ScarJo’s iPhone hit the Wi-Fi world. These weren’t sweet images of the Iron Man 2 actress posing with adoring fans on the streets of L.A. No, these were "artsy" megabyte versions of the Polaroids some of us used to keep hidden away under mattresses and in underwear drawers. Needless to say, the crowd went wild. In fact, one man even took it upon himself to make public art out of the hacked nudie shots, plastering them all over the Hollywood streets.

Ms. Johansson reacted immediately to the event, taking legal action and getting the FBI involved in what is now called "Operation Hackerazzi." The responsible party, Christopher Chaney, has apologized for what he referred to as an "addiction." Before you start researching how to tap a starlet’s smartphone, be advised that Chaney faces a maximum penalty of 121 years in federal prison.

Mila Kunis has a life

Johansson wasn’t the only celebrity targeted by Chaney. Family Guy star Mila Kunis also appeared on the Operation Hackerazzi hit list, along with Christina Aguilera, adding to the depth of this phone-hacking story. In this case, Kunis unwittingly shared private pics of herself in a bathtub and, in what is a cautionary tale of why you should never, ever trust a pal with your pretty face. Additional hacked images included suggestive hot shots of Friends With Benefits co-star Justin Timberlake. Apparently, Timberlake has a penchant for pink panties, which he "jokingly" wore over his head.

When Hollywood leaks it pours

The international hacking group Anonymous has an offshoot faction that has made it into the top phone-hacking stories of 2011. Hollywood Leaks made intrusion into the lives of the rich and famous a sport. Indeed, they said they did it for the Lulz. Why else would you distribute the phone numbers of Ashley Greene, Miley Cyrus, Joey Fatone, Mark Cuban and Lil Jon? This hacking circle also leaked Julianne Hough’s health insurance information, cell phone pictures and a previously unreleased album. Taking the Lulz a little further, they also leaked topless pictures of rapper Kreayshawn during the MTV Video Music Awards.

Tracking the Taliban

Not all of the year’s phone-hacking stories involve naked skin and provocative positions. Ironically, some hacks are implemented as a pro-security measure: as in international security. Over the summer, a rumor spread that the Taliban’s telecommunications system was hacked —purportedly by U.S. intelligence— and the entire group received this message: "Spiritual Leader Mullah Mohammad Omar Mujahid has died. May Allah bless his soul."

However, it was just a ruse to get the terrorist chatter going. That’s what the Taliban gets for not following Hollywood!

Call me — no, really

Don’t be a phone-hack victim in 2012. There are several simple things you can do to protect your privacy: