A hacker from Pennsylvania has been handed an 18-month jail term for his part in the 2014 so-called “Celebgate” scandal.
Ryan Collins had pleaded guilty to the federal hacking charge earlier this year in the hope of avoiding the maximum possible prison term of five years.
The incident, which made international headlines when it came to light two years ago, involved naked pictures and videos of Hollywood stars and other celebrities stolen from their Apple and Google accounts before being posted online.
Collins engaged in a “sophisticated” phishing scheme from November 2012 until September 2014 that tricked the celebrities into giving up their login details for their private cloud accounts, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Pennsylvania’s Middle District said on Thursday.
The operation would begin with Collins emailing a famous person using an address that looked as if it’d come directly from Apple or Google. The bogus email asked the victim for their username and password. If they replied with the information, Collins could then access their account and explore the user’s cloud-based content, which in some cases included images of the star in a state of undress.
The 36-year-old Lancaster resident accessed at least 50 iCloud accounts and 72 Gmail accounts, many of which belonged to female celebrities, among them Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Rihanna, and Avril Lavigne.
“In some instances, Collins would use a software program to download the entire contents of the victims’ Apple iCloud backups,” the Attorney’s Office said, adding that the hacker also “ran a modeling scam in which he tricked his victims into sending him nude photographs.”
However, investigators never uncovered any evidence that suggested Collins posted the stolen content online.
Commenting on the case earlier this year, the FBI’s David Bowdich said Collins illegal activities had “violated [his victims’] privacy and left many to contend with lasting emotional distress, embarrassment and feelings of insecurity.”
He also warned all internet users to “strengthen passwords and to be skeptical when replying to emails asking for personal information.”
Another man, Chicago resident Edward Majerczyk, last month also pleaded guilty to his involvement in the Celebgate crime, though it’s not thought Majerczyk and Collins worked together at any point.