The computer hacker who broke into the email accounts of celebrities including Scarlett Johansson, and leaked nude photographs of the stars online faces tough penalties according to US prosecutors.
Christopher Chaney, from Jacksonville, Florida, pleaded guilty to breaking into the Apple, Gmail and Yahoo email accounts of various female stars, including Mila Kunis and Scarlett Johansson. By automatically forwarding any email the hacked celebrities received to an account under his own control, Chaney was able to gain access to the actress's private correspondence and personal photographs.
Nude and risque photos of various celebrities subsequently leaked onto the internet, and were posted on gossip websites. (You do have to ask yourself what these celebs were thinking taking such photos - but that's a debate for another time).
Now, according to media reports, prosecutors have filed documents at the US District Court in California, calling for 35-year-old Chaney to spend 71 months in prison, and pay over $150,000 in restitution.
Specifically, prosecutors are calling on Chaney to pay:
- $7,500 to Christina Aguilera for semi-nude snaps, allegedly grabbed from her personal stylist's account.
- $66,179.46 to Scarlett Johansson.
- $76,767.35 to actress and singer Renee Olstead.
(I've got to admit, I love that such a precise figure is given for the proposed payments to Scarlett Johansson and fellow victim Renee Olstead - right down to the last cent! One wonders whose job it is to come up with these calculations, and how they are determined..)
A police investigation looked into the wave of hacking incidents involving approximately 50 celebrities, including Johansson, "High School Musical" star Vanessa Hudgens, Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus.
Chaney, who has previously claimed that the nude photo hacking was driven by "addiction", is also said to have accessed information about male stars who have hidden their homosexuality for the sake of their careers.
TMZ reports that prosecutors claim Chaney's crimes are worse than those of Michael David Barrett, who was jailed for 2.5 years after secretly videoing TV sports presenter Erin Andrews through her hotel room's peephole while she was naked, and published the footage on the internet.
I must admit I find it somewhat curious that no action seems to have been taken against any of the gossip websites which reproduced the intimate nude photos of Scarlett Johansson et al. Surely they were aware that they were in possession of stolen goods, and should have called the cops rather than republished them for clicks?
Make sure that your email accounts are protected by a hard-to-guess unique password, and that you have not chosen "password reminder" questions that are easy for others to answer.
Furthermore, check your email accounts' settings to make sure that your messages are not being secretly forwarded to someone else. Check out our extensive tips about how to avoid having your Gmail account hacked, for instance.
Chaney is scheduled to be sentenced July 23rd.Follow @gcluley