Feeds

Man charged in nude celebrity hacking case

Operation 'Hackerazzi' uncovers 50 victims

High performance access to file storage

A Florida man hacked into the email accounts of actresses Scarlett Johansson and Mila Kunis, and as many as 50 other celebrities and made off with nude photos, movie scripts, and other personal information, federal prosecutors said.

Christopher Chaney, 35, of Jacksonville, Florida, obtained personal information about his victims and used it to breach the email accounts of more than 50 individuals, federal prosecutors alleged in a criminal indictment unsealed on Wednesday. After Chaney accessed the accounts hosted by Apple, Google and Yahoo, he activated their forwarding feature, allowing him to transfer new messages "instantaneously" to a separate account he controlled.

Other celebrities allegedly targeted by Chaney included pop singer Christina Aguilera, actress Renee Olstead, and fashion designer Simone Harouche.

The 26-count indictment comes four weeks after partially nude photos of Johansson appeared online. One of the pictures showed the actress, who starred in films including "Lost in Translation" and "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," reflected in a mirror wearing only a towel. A separate image showed her topless. At a press conference on Wednesday, FBI officials said the leaked pictures were connected to the case involving Chaney.

Prosecutors didn't say exactly how Chaney broke into the email accounts, but the use of victims' personal information has long been a favorite technique to gain access to their sensitive data stored online.

In 2008, the son of a democratic state representative from Tennessee used publicly available information to breach the Yahoo Mail account of then vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, for which he was later jailed. It took David Kernel less than 45 minutes to search the web for Palin's birth date, zip code, and the location she met her spouse. That was all the information he needed to reset the password for Palin's account.

There's no evidence that Chaney worked on behalf of any of the websites that published any of the pictures or other information stolen from the celebrities accounts. That would appear to set the case apart from the cellphone hacking scandal that has rocked Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

The indictment explicitly names Johansson, Kunis, Aguilera, Olstead, and Harouche as victims and references six other victims only by their first and last initials. They are: B.P., J.A., L.B., L.S., D.F., and B.G. Over the past few years, reports have claimed that numerous celebrities have had online accounts compromised. It is unclear of any of those hacks are related to Chaney.

If convicted, Chaney faces a maximum sentence of 121 years in federal prison. He was arrested without incident by FBI agents in Florida. The charges stem from an 11-month investigation dubbed "Operation Hackerazzi." ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts
Bloke behind the cockup says not enough people are helping crucial crypto project
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
Experian subsidiary faces MEGA-PROBE for 'selling consumer data to fraudster'
US attorneys general roll up sleeves, snap on gloves
NSA denies it knew about and USED Heartbleed encryption flaw for TWO YEARS
Agency forgets it exists to protect communications, not just spy on them
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.