A 35 year-old Florida man is facing a lengthy prison term after being arrested in connection with high profile hacks of the Web-based email accounts of more than 50 celebrities, including Hollywood ingenue Scarlett Johansson.
According to a copy of the indictment (PDF), Christopher Chaney of Jacksonville was charged with 28 criminal counts that include wire fraud, knowingly and intentionally accessing the contents of the victims’ email in-boxes and further counts related to illegally transferring data and identity theft. The charges carry a potential maximum sentence of 121 years in prison, should Chaney be found guilty of all counts and punished to the full extent of the law though, if convicted, he’s likely to spend far less time behind bars.
The United States District Court for the Central District of California was not readily available for comment.
Chaney, who used the Internet-pseudonyms “Trainreqsuckshat,” “Anongrrl,” and “Jaxjaguars911” is alleged to have used a number of social engineering techniques, including monitoring social media services like Twitter and tapping other publicly available data to mine information about the celebrities, which he then used to guess their email passwords. After gaining access to the accounts, Chaney is alleged to have Chaney is alleged to have set up forwarding rules to an email address under his control, so he could keep track of all email communication coming to and from the accounts of his alleged victims.
Those named specifically as victims include Johansson, Christina Aguilera, Mila Kunis, Simon Harouche, and Renee Olstead. Leaked photos of a naked Johansson were published in recent weeks by at least one celebrity tracking Website. The indictment also provides the initials of six other unnamed celebrities: B.P., J.A., L.B., L.S., D.F., and B.G.
In an interview with ActionNewsJax.com, a local TV station, Chaney said that he intends to plead guilty to the charges and maintains that he had no intention of blackmailing anyone or profiting from the photos or information he found. Instead, Chaney claims he started the hacks out of curiosity, but eventually became addicted to the activity.
“I deeply apologize,” said Chaney in the interview. “I know what I did was probably the worst invasion of privacy someone could experience. I’m not trying to escape what I did. It was wrong. And I have to just face that and go forward.”