Thirty-six year old Pennsylvania man Ryan Collins agreed to plead guilty to hacking into hundreds of online accounts, many belonging to female celebrities, and stealing private information such as nude photos and video. The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced he was able to do so using a “phishing” scheme — sending e-mail that appeared to come directly from Apple or Google asking his victims to provide information about their accounts.
The charges against Collins are a direct result of a federal investigation into “Celebgate 2014,” when nude and explicit photos of celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence, Kirsten Dunst, and Kate Upton were leaked online. But, the authorities did not identify any of the celebrities targeted by Collins and said there is no evidence to suggest that he was involved in leaking the stolen images. He is expected to serve 18 months in jail, according to the plea agreement.
“By illegally accessing intimate details of his victims’ personal lives, Mr. Collins violated their privacy and left many to contend with lasting emotional distress, embarrassment, and feelings of insecurity,” said David Bowdich, the Assistant Director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “We continue to see both celebrities and victims from all walks of life suffer the consequences of this crime and strongly encourage users of Internet-connected devices to strengthen passwords and to be skeptical when replying to emails asking for personal information.”