Christopher Chaney, 35, who is from Jacksonville, Florida was arrested and accused of hacking into e-mail accounts and other devices for private information including movie scripts and private photos, after being investigated by federal authorities for 11 months.
Victims included many big-name entertainers such as Scarlett Johansson, Christina Aguilera, Mila Kunis, Simone Harouche and Renee Olstead.
According to Steven Martinez, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles field office, Chaney was able to access passwords of the celebrities’ Yahoo, Apples and Google email accounts by collecting information from publicly available sources.
It's simply that you may have selected a password that's meaningful to you that you may disclose online with friends, Martinez said. Your pet's name or whatever. That's a clue to a hacker, to start there.
A lot of address books, photos and other files were saved by the stars in their e-mail accounts, so when Chaney cracked the passwords, he could get an access to all those materials.
Chaney could also have access to any information in the accounts because he had installed a program that would automatically send him the duplicate of every message that the stars received.
According to Martinez, Chaney distributed some material to public sites but there is no evidence that he did this to get any profit, for it seemed that he had no plans to contact stars or sell his information. With the help of the forwarding program, he could even know about it when the stars changed their passwords.
Chaney distributed some of the files he obtained illegally, including photos of celebrities, and offered them to various celebrity blog sites. Some of the illegally obtained files, including private photographs, were ultimately posted online, an FBI statement read.
Chaney was supposed to attend in a Jacksonville court Wednesday. One day earlier, a federal grand jury charged him with 26 counts including identity theft, unauthorized access to a protected computer and wiretapping.
Chaney, who used the names trainreqsuckswhat, anonygrrl and jaxjaguars911, could be sentenced to federal prison for up to 121 years if proved guilty of all the counts.
The case brings us to a new word in expanding lexicon of cybercrime — 'hackerrazzi,' said Martinez.
We continue to receive complaints involving the targeting of high-profile figures.” U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said.
Unfortunately, Mr. Chaney was able to access nude photos of some of the celebrities and some of them were uploaded on the Internet, Birotte added.
It helps get out the message that cyber-hacking is a real threat, he said.
According to investigators, those who don’t value online security should learn more about how to protect their personal information and set up passwords that can't be easily cracked by hackers.
Taking these steps will go a long way in protecting yourself from the financial and emotional costs of having someone intrude on your private life and potentially steal your identity, Birotte said.