"Photos from a clothes fitting Emma had with a stylist a couple of years ago have been stolen," the 26-year-old British actress's spokesman told AFP.

"They are not nude photographs. Lawyers have been instructed and we are not commenting further."

Media reports said the pictures were shared on the so-called "dark web" -- an encrypted part of the internet not easily accessible by users lacking specialist knowledge.

The incident follows controversy over a photoshoot in the March edition of Vanity Fair in which she partially exposed her breasts, prompting criticism that the shoot wasn't in keeping with the United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador's feminist image.

The "Harry Potter" star was also threatened on the controversial 4Chan message board in 2014 with a leak of nude images after delivering a speech on gender equality.

"I knew it was a hoax, I knew the pictures didn't exist," she said at a Facebook event the following year after the pictures failed to emerge.

"The minute I stepped up and talked about women's rights I was immediately threatened -- within less than 12 hours I was receiving threats."

Last month, a 29-year-old Chicago man was jailed for nine months for hacking into the electronic accounts of celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence, held by Apple's iCloud service and stealing private information, including nude videos and photos.

Dozens of photos of stars were posted online as part of the 2014 phishing exercise, including shots of Rihanna, Kate Upton and Kirsten Dunst. Tech giant Apple admitted there had been a "targeted attack," but denied its cloud storage system had been breached.

"Even worse than seeing women's privacy violated on social media is reading the accompanying comments that show such a lack of empathy," Watson, who was not named among the victims, tweeted at the time.

"Beauty and the Beast" -- Disney's live-action remake of its own 1991 animated feature -- hits theaters Friday with Watson in the lead role as Belle, and is already the fastest selling family film in history, outpacing previous record-holder "Finding Dory."

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