Pennsylvania man responsible for ‘The Fappening’ charged with hacking celebrities’ nude photos
A hacker involved in the widespread nude-photo hack that came to be known as “The Fappening” pleads guilty to allegations of leaking a multitude of celebrity photos, female celebs like Brie Larson, Jennifer Lawrence, and Kate Upton among them. He faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines, plus potential restitution owed to the victims. However, prosecutors say they will recommend he only get 18 months in exchange for a guilty plea.
According to the agency, Ryan Collins, a 36-year-old Pennsylvania man, hacked into iCloud and Google email accounts of more than 100 people, most of them celebrities.
“[Collins] was charged today with felony computer hacking related to a phishing scheme that gave him illegal access to more than 100 Apple iCloud and Gmail accounts, including those belonging to members of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles,” according to a statement from the Justice Department. Jennifer Lawrence, Kirsten Dunst, Kaley Cuoco and Kate Upton, among others, confirmed the photos were authentic.
The photos were spread widely on Web forums like Reddit and 4chan. Collins is not charged with leaking the photos after taking them. “Investigators have not uncovered any evidence linking Collins to the actual leaks or that Collins shared or uploaded the information he obtained,” the Justice Department said in its statement. They are trying to figure out if the latest fappening hacker from Pennsylvania has had any ties with two Chicago men who had their homes raided by the FBI in 2014.
“Today, people store important private information in their online accounts and in their digital devices,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Lawless unauthorized access to such private information is a criminal offense. My office remains committed to protecting sensitive and personal information from the malicious actions of sophisticated hackers and cyber criminals.”
As for tracking down those who posted the stolen photos on the Internet, the Justice Department will only confirm that there is an ongoing investigation by the FBI.
“We continue to see both celebrities and victims from all walks of life suffer the consequences of this crime,” said David Bowdich, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, in a statement, “[we] strongly encourage users of Internet-connected devices to strengthen passwords and to be skeptical when replying to emails asking for personal information.”
According to the Justice Department, Collins engaged in a phishing scheme from November 2012 to September 2014, during which he obtained his victims’ usernames and passwords. Collins would send emails that seemed to be from Apple or Google, asking them to provide information. When the victims responded, Collins accessed their accounts and obtained personal information, including nude photographs and videos.
Authorities say Collins accessed at least 50 iCloud accounts and 72 Gmail accounts, most belonging to female celebrities.