Jail term for celebrity photo hacker
Brought to justice
Just two years after a batch of illegally obtained nude photos featuring dozens of female celebrities were posted to the internet, the ‘celebgate’ hacker at the centre of the case has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.
Ryan Collins – a 36-year-old man from Lancaster, Pennsylvania – finally admitted to federal hacking charges, as well as to an extended so-called ‘phishing’ scam that was employed to access the passwords of some of the celebrities named, including Jennifer Lawrence, Kim Kardashian and Rihanna.
A statement issued by Pennsylvania US attorney Bruce Brandler said that Collins sent fake emails purporting to be from Apple and Google that asked for usernames and passwords. Armed with this information, Collins collected 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.’
Investigators were able to identify more than 600 victims; Collins had seemingly gained access to a minimum of 50 Apple iCloud accounts and 72 Gmail accounts, many belonging to famous women.
In 2014, images of more than 100 actors, singers and other female celebrities were posted online, causing outrage.
Apple came under scrutiny at the time for not securing the information on its iCloud servers, although the company argued that there was no ‘breach in any of Apple’s systems’, rather that it had been subject to ‘a very targeted attack on usernames, passwords and security cases’.
Collins had been charged in Los Angeles but the case was transferred closer to his home in Pennsylvania, where he was sentenced. Investigators have still not uncovered evidence linking Collins to the actual leaks ‘or that Collins shared or uploaded the information he obtained’.
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