Pennsylvania man sentenced to 18 months for celeb hacking

The man wasn’t charged with the leaks of intimate snaps of female celebrities

Mobile security
Credit: IDGNS

A Pennsylvania man was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison on charges of hacking the Google and Apple email accounts of over 100 people including celebrities, and getting access to nude videos and photographs of some people.

The sentencing against Ryan Collins, 36, of Lancaster is the offshoot of a Department of Justice investigation into the online leaks of photographs of numerous female celebrities in September 2014, widely referred to as "Celebgate."

But DOJ has not found any evidence linking Collins to the actual leaks or the sharing and uploading of the content.

Between November 2012 and early September 2014, Collins is said to have sent e-mails to victims that appeared to be from Apple or Google and asked them to provide their usernames and passwords. Having gained access to the email accounts, he got hold of personal information including nude photographs and videos, and in some cases used a software program to download the entire contents of the victims' Apple iCloud backups, according to DOJ.

Some victims were also tricked into providing nude snaps for a modeling scam, DOJ said.

Collins case is akin to that of Edward Majerczyk, 28, a resident of Chicago and Orland Park, Illinois, who authorities said has admitted in a plea agreement entered in July in a U.S. federal court in Los Angeles that between Nov. 23, 2013 through August 2014, he had obtained usernames and passwords from his victims through a phishing scheme. Majerczyk got access to personal information including sensitive and private photographs and videos from his victims, the DOJ said at the time.

Majerczyk is also charged only with illegal access to email accounts and not the actual leaks of the nude photographs. While announcing his guilty plea in July, DOJ did not make any reference that suggests that he and Collins worked together.

Collins accessed at least 50 iCloud accounts and 72 Gmail accounts, many of which belonged to female celebrities, while Majerczyk accessed at least 300 Apple iCloud and Gmail accounts, and at least 30 accounts belonging to celebrities, according to officials.

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