Hollywood Email Hacker Gets 10 Years Behind Bars

Dennis Faas's picture

The man who hacked into the email accounts of more than 50 Hollywood celebrities has now been sentenced to ten years behind bars.

Christopher Chaney was arrested last year by the FBI after a lengthy investigation the agency dubbed "Operation Hackerazzi."

Chaney was tried and found responsible for accessing and publishing explicit photographs of Scarlett Johansson, along with a number of other Hollywood stars. Johansson agreed to let officials publicize her name in order to draw attention to the case.

Another actress and singer whose bare pictures were leaked by Chaney told the court the incident was so traumatic that it had led her to consider suicide.

The court also heard evidence that Chaney stole intimate pictures of women he knew personally. In one case, he sent the photos to his victim's father.

Security Questions Proved Easy To Crack

Chaney's hacking was not particularly sophisticated. He simply used the "forgotten password" feature on webmail accounts to gain access.

Chaney studied publicly available information and was able to figure out the answers to follow-up security questions guarding the celebrities' private accounts. (Source: bbc.co.uk)

In some cases he even looked at the stars' address lists and posed as one of their friends to elicit more information, which he then forwarded to celebrity gossip websites.

Chaney had originally denied a string of charges that could have led to a jail term of 121 years.

Earlier this year, however, he changed his mind and agreed to plead guilty to a total of nine charges, including federal wiretapping, aggravated identity theft, and unauthorized access to computers.

Those charges could have landed him behind bars for 60 years, though it was always likely any sentences would run concurrently rather than consecutively. After thinking things over, prosecutors asked for a six-year sentence.

Hacking Compared to Physical Stalking

However, the trial judge said Chaney deserved a harsher punishment because he continued to carry out his illegal activities even after the FBI seized his computer. The judge said his offenses were "as pernicious and serious as physical stalking." (Source: bbc.co.uk)

Hence, the ten year sentence.

Upon his release, Chaney will be supervised for three years and will be required to provide officials with information about his Internet activities.

The trial judge said he would have preferred to extend this supervision to cover Chaney's remaining lifetime, but the law does not allow him to impose such lengthy oversight.

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