29-year-old Oregon hacker accessed nude images of hundreds of Hollywood stars pleads guilty as charged
An Oregon hacker has pleaded guilty to felony hacking charges for stealing nude photos of celebrities. Andrew Helton, 29, of Portland, pleaded guilty Thursday to a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. He would now be sentenced up to five years in prison when it is announced in June.
According the the police statement, Helton targeted Hollywood stars using social engineering. He used to send these stars emails purporting to be from Google and Apple and use the credentials gained through illicit means to access personal email/iCloud/Google Albums. According to the U.S. Department of justice, he was able to dupe hundreds of Hollywood stars into giving him their usernames and passwords.
The scheme, which lasted from March 2011 to May 2013, gave Helton access to “161 sexually explicit, nude and/or partially nude images of approximately 13 victims, some of whom were celebrities,” said DOJ spokesman Thom Mrozek. “We have no evidence that the photos were posted online nor do we have evidence that he was shopping them around to any tabloids,” added Mrozek.
The case though similar to the Celebgate or Fappening which rocked Hollywood in September, 2014 differs in many respects. This case predates Fappening by almost a year and Helton did not leak the images he accessed unlike the Fappening hackers who accessed more than 600 accounts belonging to Hollywood stars. The Fappening hacker proceeded to leak the nude photos of stars such as Jennifer Lawrence, Kim Kardashian, Kate Upton, Kirsten Dunst, Kaley Cuoco and many more on Internet.
In Helton’s case, the Department of Justice is not naming the Hollywood stars he managed to hack. “We don’t give out names of victims,” Mrozek said.
Apple had referred this case to FBI, like Celebgate, once it was reported. “The thought of a stranger accessing your private communications for sport or monetary gain can be devastating,” said David Bowdich, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “This insidious crime has distressed scores of average individuals, as well as celebrity victims. The FBI is committed to holding accountable those who illegally intrude upon the cyber landscape, and to educating consumers about strengthening passwords and employing two-factor authentication, among other safeguards.”