U.S. Gets Some Celebgate Hackers

In March the FBI announced that one of the hackers who broke into a number of celebrities ‘ phones in 2014 pleaded guilty.  Ryan Collins, 36, of Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to one felony count of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by illegally accessing a protected computer to obtain information.

This month, Illinois resident Edward Majerczyk pleaded guilty to the same charge.  He could get up to five years on the charge.

Celebrities who’s accounts were hacked and photos stolen include Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Kirsten Dunst, Selena Gomez, Kim Kardashian, Hillary Duff and others.

Apparently these two guys were operating separately. And, there are other guys that they caught, Alonzo Knowles, who pleaded guilty in New York and Andrew Helton in Oregon.

While they caught these guys, there are probably thousands of others that they did not catch.  That doesn’t mean that the FBI won’t try to get you.

The feds have said from the beginning that these guys did not post the nude photos that they stole online.  They are still trying to figure out who did that.

It does point out that not all of the cyber criminals are in Russian and China.  These four are in the U.S., making it a lot easier to prosecute them.

It is also becoming clear that these guys are not master criminals.  From the Justice Department’s press release, they all sent phishing emails to the victims pretending to be from the security departments of internet service providers, directing the victims to a fake web page asking for the victim’s userid and password.

Once they had the celeb’s userid and password, they could rifle through their stuff at will.

This is about as basic an attack as you can find and decent cyber (phishing) education would have saved these celebrities a LOT of pain and embarrassment.

It appears that the maximum sentence for this violation of the CFAA is 5 years, but the judge does not have to give the maximum and there is credit for time served prior to trial and other credits, so until these guys are sentenced, we are not really going to know how much time they will serve.  With prisons being very crowded and the U.S. taxpayer spending over $8 billion a year on prisons, these guys could get shorter sentences.

Of course, putting these guys in jail does not put the genie back in the bottle.  The nude pictures of these celebs are still out there, in many cases, because the servers that they are on are located outside the U.S. or move around from website to website.  Sometimes the celebs give up trying to get all the different copies taken down because it is just too hard to do.

If it is that hard for celebs to get these pictures removed with all of the money, resources and connections that they have, imagine how hard it is for an average citizen to get inappropriate pictures of them taken down.  The revenge porn laws in some states and the right to be forgotten laws in some countries help, but it is still very hard to do.

So while we should acknowledge the feds for tracking these four guys down, how  many more are there still out there committing cyber crimes?

Information for this post came from USA Today and Sophos.

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