A hacker, linked to the nude photo release of female celebrities including Kate Upton, Jennifer Lawrence and Kirsten Dunst, was sentenced Wednesday to 18 months in federal prison for a phishing scheme that gave him illegal access to more than 100 email accounts.
Ryan Collins, 36, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Collins, a resident of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was taken into custody immediately after sentencing, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The case was investigated by FBI agents based in Los Angeles, and the plea agreement was negotiated by local prosecutors. The case was transferred to the Middle District of Pennsylvania because the defendant lives in the area.
“Hackers violate federal law whenever they access private information stored online and in digital devices,” said Eileen M. Decker, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles.
“Today people store important private information online and in their digital devices, which is why my office is deeply committed to holding hackers accountable, even when they do not sell or distribute the stolen data,” she said.
Collins admitted that from November 2012 until the beginning of September 2014, he engaged in a phishing scheme to obtain user names and passwords for his victims, sending email messages that appeared to be from Apple or Google.
When they responded, Collins then had access to the victims’ email accounts, from which he obtained personal information, including nude photographs and videos.
In some instances, Collins would use a software program to download the entire contents of the victims’ Apple iCloud backups, court papers show.
The charge against Collins stemmed from the investigation into the leaks of photographs of numerous female celebrities in September 2014 known as “Celebgate” — which even has its own Twitter account.
However, investigators have not uncovered any evidence linking Collins to the actual leaks, or that Collins shared or uploaded the information he obtained.
Collins illegally accessed at least 50 iCloud accounts and 72 Gmail accounts, most of which belonged to female celebrities, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“The defendant intruded into the online accounts of hundreds of victims and in doing so, intruded upon their lives, causing lasting distress,” said Deirdre Fike, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office.
“The prison sentence received by Mr. Collins is proof that hacking into the accounts of others and stealing private information or images is a crime with serious consequences,” Fike said.
–Staff and Wire Reports