Hacker image
2016 biggest hacks. Image credit: Computer Business review.

Ryan Collins, 36, from Lancaster Pennsylvania, received an 18-month jail sentence last Wednesday on one count of unauthorized access to a computer to obtain information. He had already pleaded guilty to these charges earlier in May.

Collins is responsible for the phishing scam perpetrated to steal private photos from different celebrities, all of them women. Most of the photos showed them naked. The scandal took the name of “Celebgate” or “The Fappening,” in the media.

The Middle District of Pennsylvania branch of The Department of Justice released an online statement on the matter yesterday, indicating that Collins would pay his sentence in a federal prison.

Collins used Gmail and iCloud accounts to steal the pictures

Ryan Collins, the Fapenning author. Image from Google+
Ryan Collins, the Fappening author. Image from Google+

The United States District Court Judge William W. Caldwell oversaw Collins’ felony violation trial of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Law enforcement authorities took him into custody immediately after the judge announced the conviction.

Though the case’s investigators could not determine if Collins was guilty of leaking the celebrity photos or personally uploading them to the Internet, they did uncover that he maintained a sophisticated phishing scam to obtain the usernames and passwords of the victims.

He mainly sent emails to celebrities, using fake accounts created to appear as official Apple or Google typical ‘no-reply’ services, which allowed him to obtain their personal information in the first place.

Collins then accessed their iCloud backups and downloaded their photos, sometimes using dedicated software to get large quantities of data.

The document also notes he also ran a separate modeling scam to force other victims into sending him nude photographs.

Prosecutors identified more than 600 victims, most of them related to the entertainment industry. Collins accessed at least 50 iCloud accounts and 70 Gmail accounts.

Victims and aftermath of the “Fappening” 

One of the most talked about celebrities involved in this hacking was Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence (X-Men series, The Hunger Games). She was one of the first entertainers to have her personal photographs illicitly posted online.

Other A-list artists include Kate Upton, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Gabrielle Union, Rihanna, Kaley Cuoco, and Kirsten Dunst. Other celebrities like Ariana Grande, which also appeared among the victims in this scandal, have denied the authenticity of the pictures.

The hack prompted Tim Cook (Apple’s CEO) to address security concerns regarding the iCloud service directly, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

The first wave of leaked photos appeared on August 31, 2014, with the second set of pictures coming out on September 20 of the same year.

Source: The U. S. Department of Justice