Hollywood Hacker Faces 121 Years in Prison

Dennis Faas's picture

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has accused a 35 year old man of hacking Scarlett Johansson's cellphone and stealing photographs of the actress in a state of undress.

Christopher Chaney, of Jacksonville, Florida, has been charged with several offenses after allegedly compromising the security of more than 50 people, including other celebrities.

The offenses are believed to involve a string of entertainers, including singer Christina Aguilera, actress Mila Kunis, celebrity stylist Simone Harouche and jazz singer Renee Olstead. It's thought the attacks involved both direct access to portable devices as well as unlawful breaches of emails and other online accounts.

Prosecutors have confirmed that widely-circulated buff pictures of Johansson are part of the investigation. They say that Chaney not only took compromising photographs from his victims, but that he also stole details of private conversations and even confidential movie scripts.

Low-Tech Hacking Used to Breach Security

According to the FBI, it doesn't appear Chaney relied on advanced technology in breaching the security.

Instead, he was able to figure out passwords or other security measures by monitoring social media postings by the celebrities -- for example, by learning the name of pets or other common security verification questions. He then set the accounts to forward copies of messages without the celebrities realizing the account had been compromised.

Security researchers have noted that a previous high-profile celebrity hacking case involving Paris Hilton came about when a criminal used the name of the society girl's pet dog to reset a password. (Source: cnn.com)

Alleged Offender Barred From Internet

Chaney has been charged with several offences, including aggravated identify theft, damaging protected computers, wiretapping, and unauthorized access of protected computers. He has been released on a $10,000 bond, ordered to live with his parents, and banned from using the Internet until trial.

If convicted on all charges, he faces a maximum combined penalty of 121 years in prison, though it's likely he would receive lower sentences or have some sentences run concurrently. (Source: google.com)

The arrest is the result of a lengthy FBI probe into Hollywood hacking dubbed "Operation Hackerazzi". Officials say Chaney offered the stolen material to celebrity-based websites, but did not profit from his alleged crimes, suggesting he found no buyers.

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