A 35-year-old Florida man pleaded guilty on Monday to hacking into the e-mail accounts of film stars Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis and Christina Aguilera, and was ordered into custody Reuters reported. Christopher Chaney pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court to unauthorised computer access, wiretapping and other felony charges contained in a criminal indictment.
He faces up to 60 years in prison when sentenced in July. Chaney, who admitted hacking the emails of more than 50 celebrities, was arrested in October 2011 after an 11-month investigation named “Operation Hackerazzi” by the FBI.
His activity resulted in nude photos of Johansson and a bubblebath picture of Black Swan actor Kunis reaching gossip websites. Johansson said later that the photos of herself topless and wrapped in a towel with an exposed backside were taken for her then husband, actor Ryan Reynolds.
Chaney admitted that he had emailed many of the photographs and other personal information that he stole from celebrities to another hacker and to two entertainment websites. “Today’s guilty pleas shine a bright light on the dark underworld of computer hacking,” said United States Attorney Andre Birotte Jr, whose office prosecuted the case. “This case demonstrates that everyone, even public figures, should take precautions to shield their personal information from the hackers that inhabit that dark underworld,” Birotte said in a statement.
How did he do it?
Chaney mined through publicly available data to figure out password and security questions for celebrity accounts. Once he had control of an email account, he also went through contact lists to find accounts of fellow stars. He also hijacked a forwarding feature so a copy of every email a celebrity received was sent to an account he controlled, according to court documents. A search warrant unsealed and obtained by The Associated Press said Chaney’s computer hard drive contained numerous private celebrity photos and a document that compiled their extensive personal data.
With additional information from The Huffington Post
Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2012.