Second Guilty Plea in ‘Celebgate’ Hack

     LOS ANGELES (CN) — A second man has been charged in the aftermath of massive celebrity hack known as “Celebgate,” and has pleaded guilty to stealing photographs and videos from celebrity email accounts.
     Edward Majerczyk, 28, of Chicago, agreed to plead guilty to charges that he used a phishing scheme to hack into 300 Apple iCloud and Gmail accounts.
     In March, Ryan Collins, 36, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, also entered into a plea agreement for hacking e-mail accounts and accessing 50 Apple iCloud accounts and 72 Gmail accounts. The majority of the accounts belonged to female celebrities, the government said.
     Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Lea Michele were among the celebrity victims of the 2014 attack in which close to 500 images, including nude photos, were posted on the website 4chan.
     The government has stated that the charges against Collins and Majerczyk are related to an investigation into “leaks of photographs of numerous female celebrities,” but says that so far there is no evidence linking them to the actual leak.
     In Collins’ case, the government said there was no evidence he had shared or uploaded photographs or videos.
     According to court documents, Majerczyk obtained the photos by sending phishing emails that looked like bona fide security requests and asking victims to provide their usernames and passwords for iCloud and Gmail accounts via a link in the email.
     After clicking on that link, victims were redirected to a website to enter their personal information. Majerczyk would log on to the third-party website and fetch the victims’ usernames and passwords and then log into their accounts to steal “sensitive and private photographs and videos,” the plea agreement states.
     “Through his hacking scheme, defendant was also able to access full Apple iCloud backups belonging to numerous victims, including at least 30 celebrities, many of whom reside in the Los Angeles area,” the 16-page plea agreement states. “Many of these backups contained sensitive and private photographs and videos.”
     According to the plea, the photographs and videos had a value in excess of $5,000.
     “Hacking of online accounts to steal personal information is not merely an intrusion of an individual’s privacy but is a serious violation of federal law,” U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker said. “Defendant’s conduct was a profound intrusion into the privacy of his victims and created vulnerabilities at multiple online service providers.”
     Majerczyk was charged in Los Angeles but will enter his guilty plea in the Northern District of Illinois. He faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison.

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