Ryan Collins of Pennsylvania will plead guilty to violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act as part of the celebrity iCloud breach known as “The Fappening” or “Celebgate” by the brave men of Reddit and 4chan who masturbated throughout. He faces up to five years in prison.
He’ll probably serve far less: the feds say “parties have agreed to recommend a prison term of 18 months,” although “that recommendation will not be binding on the sentencing judge.” Collins breached the celeb accounts through phishing emails that tricked famous actresses (or those close to them) into thinking they were official security dispatches from Apple and Google. The Department of Justice says Collins hijacked over 100 accounts.
Once armed with a celebrity’s email and password, the feds say Collins downloaded complete backups of their iPhones:
It’s unclear if Collins has any connection to two Chicago men whose homes were searched by the FBI in 2014 as part of the iCloud investigation—interestingly, the DOJ says he didn’t do the actual leaking to 4chan and Reddit:
According to factual basis in the plea agreement, from November 2012 until the beginning of September 2014, Collins engaged in a phishing scheme to obtain usernames and passwords for his victims. He sent e-mails to victims that appeared to be from Apple or Google and asked victims to provider their usernames and passwords. When the victims responded, Collins then had access to the victims’ e-mail accounts.
After illegally accessing the e-mail accounts, Collins obtained personal information including nude photographs and videos, according to his plea agreement. In some instances, Collins would use a software program to download the entire contents of the victims’ Apple iCloud backups.
The charge against Collins stems from the investigation into the leaks of photographs of numerous female celebrities in September 2014 known as “Celebgate.” However, investigators have not uncovered any evidence linking Collins to the actual leaks or that Collins shared or uploaded the information he obtained.
Many of Collins’ victims were members of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. By illegally accessing the e-mail accounts, Collins accessed at least 50 iCloud accounts and 72 Gmail accounts, most of which belonged to female celebrities.
(Emphasis added.) I asked the U.S. District Attorney’s Office about any link between Collins and the Chicago men, and was told only that “the case against Collins is directly related to that investigation,” which is “ongoing.”