Celebrity photo hacker receives jail term
Two years after illegally obtained nude photos of dozens of female celebrities were posted to the internet, the ‘celebgate’ hacker at the heart of the case has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.
A 36-year-old man from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Ryan Collins, pleaded guilty to federal hacking charges and admitted to a two-year so-called ‘phishing’ scam that was used to access the passwords of celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence, Kim Kardashian and Rihanna.
Campaign of fake emails
According to a statement by Pennsylvania US attorney Bruce Brandler, Collins persuaded celebrities to divulge their usernames and passwords in response to a series of fake emails that purported to be from Apple and Google. Collins then obtained personal information and nude photos from his targets, most of whom were well-known entertainers.
‘In some cases,’ Brandler’s office said, ‘Collins would use a software program to download the entire contents of the victims’ Apple iCloud backups. In addition, Collins ran a modelling scam in which he tricked his victims into sending him nude photographs.’
Altogether, investigators identified over 600 victims, with Collins having apparently gained access to at least 50 Apple iCloud accounts and 72 Gmail accounts, many belonging to famous women.
In the summer of 2014, images of more than 100 actors, singers and other female celebrities were posted online, to widespread condemnation.
At the time, Apple was criticised by some for failing to effectively secure private information on its iCloud servers, although the company countered that it had been subject to ‘a very targeted attack on usernames, passwords and security cases’, reiterating that none of the cases investigated had resulted from ‘a breach in any of Apple’s systems’.
Collins was originally charged in Los Angeles but the case was transferred closer to his home in Pennsylvania, where he was sentenced. However, investigators have not uncovered evidence linking Collins to the actual leaks ‘or that Collins shared or uploaded the information he obtained’.