This high-profile phishing scam is a reminder to folks, whether celebs or not, to take sensible online security measures and keep an eye out for bogus emails.
A hacker who stole nude photos of Hollywood celebrities by gaining unauthorized access to their Apple and Google accounts has been handed a nine-month jail term.
Chicago resident Edward Majerczyk, 29, had already entered a guilty plea last year for his part in the crime, though there’s no evidence that he had any involvement in uploading the material to the internet.
The hack, along with a similar one carried out by another perpetrator at around the same time, made international headlines in 2014 and quickly became known as “Celebgate.”
Majerczyk illegally accessed more than 300 Apple iCloud and Gmail accounts between November 2013 and August 2014, with at least 30 of those accounts linked to Hollywood celebrities.
U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras, who sentenced Majerczyk, described his actions as “abhorrent,” adding, “It’s a very, very trying time that we live in.”
The hacker was also told to pay $5,700 in restitution to cover counseling costs for one of his victims, a celebrity whose name wasn’t given, according to the Chicago Tribune.
During Tuesday’s court appearance, Majerczyk, a former customer service representative, told the court he was sorry for causing his victims “pain and grief,” and for embarrassing friends and family. He added that he’ll “never stop striving to do better and to be better.”
At his initial hearing last year, Majerczyk said he’d carried out web searches to find information on how to carry out a phishing scam. In this case, the hacker targeted celebrities with bogus emails that tricked people into giving up login and password information for their iCloud and Gmail accounts. Celebrity victims who fell for the scam included the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and Kirsten Dunst.
The FBI’s Deirdre Fike said last year that Majerczyk had hacked not only into e-mail accounts, but also “into his victims’ private lives, causing embarrassment and lasting harm.”
Fike added: “As most of us use devices containing private information, cases like this remind us to protect our data. Members of society whose information is in demand can be even more vulnerable, and directly targeted.”
Another hacker, Pennsylvania resident Ryan Collins, last year pleaded guilty to using a similar phishing technique to steal private content from celebrity accounts. He was handed an 18-month jail term in October, 2016. It’s not thought Majerczyk and Collins cooperated at any point.