Almost three years after the massive leakage of high-profile celebrities’ nude photos—well known as “The Fappening” or “Celebgate” scandal—a fourth hacker has been charged with hacking into over 250 Apple iCloud accounts belonged to Hollywood celebrities.
A federal court has accused George Garofano, 26, of North Branford, of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, who had been arrested by the FBI.
Garofano has admitted to illegally obtaining credentials for his victims’ iCloud accounts using a phishing scheme, which eventually allowed him to steal personal information on his victims, including sensitive and private photographs and videos.
Among celebrities whose nude photographs were posted online back in 2014 are Jennifer Lawrence, Kim Kardashian, Kirsten Dunst, and Kate Upton. Also, female victims also include American Olympic gold medallist Misty May Treanor and actors Alexandra Chando, Kelli Garner and Lauren O’Neil.
Between April 2013 to October 2014, Garofano engaged in sending phishing emails pretended to be from Apple security team to several celebrities, tricking them into providing their iCloud account credentials, which they stole to access their accounts illegally.
“Garofano admitted that he sent emails to victims that appeared to be from security accounts of Apple and encouraged the victims to send him their usernames and passwords, or to enter them on a third-party website, where he would later retrieve them,” the Justice Department said.
Besides stealing victims’ personal information, including sensitive and private photographs and videos, from their iCloud accounts using stolen credentials, Garofano, in some instances, also traded the stolen credentials, along with the materials he stole from the victims’ accounts, with other individuals.
In a plea agreement signed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Garofano agreed to plead guilty to one count of unauthorised access to a protected computer to obtain information, facing up to 5 years in prison.
Garofano is the fourth hacker charged in connection with the Celebgate incident. Emilio Herrera, 32, Edward Majerczyk, 28, and Ryan Collins, 36, pleaded guilty last year to being involved in the celebrity photo hack.
While Herrera is waiting for sentencing next month, Majerczyk was sentenced to nine months in prison and Collins was sentenced to 18 months last year.
The investigation into the Celebgate scandal is being conducted by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.