THE US FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (FBI) arrested a 35-year-old Florida man who is suspected of hacking into the personal email accounts of many celebrities and leaking their private conversations and photos.
Christopher Chaney, 35, of Jacksonville, Florida, faces a total of 121 years in prison if found guilty on all charges brought against him, which include multiple counts of identity theft, unauthorized access to a protected computer and wiretapping.
According to the indictment, actresses Scarlett Johansson and Mila Kunis, singers Renee Olstead and Christina Aguilera, and stylist Simone Harouche were amongst Chaney's victims. The Washington Post reports that Jessica Alba is also believed to have been targeted, but she is not directly named in the complaint.
The arrest comes after nude photos of Scarlett Johansson made their way online in September. Her legal representatives said at the time that they were obtained in an unlawful manner and the FBI was informed.
Authorities believe that Chaney used public information to guess the passwords of his victims or the answers to security questions. The same technique was used in the past to hack into the email accounts of former US presidential candidate Sarah Palin and several Twitter employees.
Once inside the email accounts, the hacker set up forwarding rules to have copies of all received emails sent to an email address under his control. It's worth pointing out that this is a common method of gathering information and one that Google has repeatedly warned Gmail users about.
Chaney appeared in court for the first time on Wednesday and was released on $10,000 bond, however, this is not the first time that celebrities have been targeted by hackers and have had their risque photos leaked on the Internet.
Once-teen idol Miley Cyrus had her online accounts hacked on multiple occasions and had her intimate photos made public twice, the first time when she was only 16. More recently, in their quest to steal unreleased songs a group of German hackers obtained a nude photo of American singer Ke$ha and blackmailed her with it.
In addition to security tips, Sophos' senior technology consultant Graham Cluley had one other piece of advice for celebrities and pretty much everyone else: "If you must take nude photos of yourself, don't leave them on your phone or store them in your email." µ