Celebrity Hacker Sentenced to Federal Prison
LOS ANGELES — A 36-year old man who hacked into the personal e-mail accounts of more than 50 people associated with the entertainment industry – including actors Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis and Renee Olstead – was sentenced Monday to 120 months in federal prison.
Christopher Chaney, of Jacksonville, Florida, was also ordered to pay $66,179 in restitution.
Chaney has been in custody since March, when he pleaded guilty to nine felony counts, including wiretapping and unauthorized access to protected computers.
“Illegal wiretapping gave Mr. Chaney access to every email sent to more than four dozen victims, and allowed him to view their most personal information,” said US Attorney André Birotte Jr.
“Mr. Chaney is responsible for causing dozens of illegally obtained, private photographs to be posted on the Internet, where they were available for all to see.”
When he pleaded guilty, Chaney admitted that from at least November 2010 to October 2011, he hacked into the victims’ e-mail accounts by clicking on the “forgot your password?” feature, and then re-setting the victims’ passwords by correctly answering their security questions he guessed by using publicly available information he on the Internet.
Once Chaney gained exclusive control of the victims’ e-mail accounts, he was able to access all of their email boxes.
While in the accounts, Chaney also went through their contact lists to find addresses of potential new hacking targets.
Chaney also admitted that for most victims he changed their e-mail account settings by inserting his own email address into the forwarding feature so that he would receive, without the victims’ knowledge, a duplicate copy of all incoming e-mails.
Most of the victims did not check their account settings, so even after they regained control of their e-mail accounts, Chaney’s email address remained in their account settings.
As a result of his hacking scheme, Chaney obtained private photographs and confidential documents, including business contracts, scripts, letters, driver’s license information and social security information.
On several occasions, after hacking into victims’ accounts, Chaney sent e-mails from the hacked accounts, fraudulently posing as the victims and requesting more private photographs.
Chaney e-mailed many of the stolen photographs to others, including another hacker and two gossip websites. As a result, some of the stolen photographs were posted on the Internet.
The FBI’s L.A. office said Chaney’s arrest was part of “Operation ‘Hackerazzi,’” which involved computer intrusions targeting individuals in the entertainment industry.
The federal probe began in 2010, after allegations of people hacking into phones and computers belonging to several Hollywood celebrities.