Ryan Collins’s phishing scheme gave him illegal access to more than 100 Apple and Google email accounts.
A Pennsylvania man was charged Tuesday with felony computer hacking related to the so-called “celebgate” nude photo leaks in September 2014.
Ryan Collins, 36, of Lancaster, Penn. will plead guilty to a felony violation of the Computer Fraud Abuse Act as well as one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer, according to the Department of Justice.
Collins for nearly two years orchestrated a phishing scheme that gave him illegal access to more than 100 Apple and Google email accounts, including those belonging to big-name celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence.
After entering his guilty plea, Collins will face a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.
While investigators did not find evidence linking Collins to the actual leaks, they said he illegally accessed the email accounts of numerous female celebrities and obtained their personal information, including nude photos and videos.
He allegedly carried out the computer crimes from November 2012 until the beginning of September 2014, sending emails that appeared to come from Apple or Google asking victims for their usernames and passwords. When the victims responded, they unknowingly handed their credentials not to Google or Apple, but to Collins, who then had access to their email accounts.
Collins violated their privacy and left many to contend with lasting emotional distress, embarrassment and feelings of insecurity,” David Bowdich, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office said in a statement. “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.”
All told, Collins accessed “at least” 50 iCloud accounts and 72 Gmail accounts, “most of which belonged to female celebrities,” the DoJ said.
After gaining access to these accounts, “in some instances, Collins would use a software program to download the entire contents of the victims’ Apple iCloud backups.”