EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 17, 2012

Celebrity hacker gets 10-year prison sentence

By Richard Winton
Los Angeles Times (MCT)

---- — LOS ANGELES — A Florida man who hacked into email accounts and procured naked images of Mila Kunis, Christina Aguilera and Scarlett Johansson was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison.

U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero sentenced Christopher Chaney, 35, of Jacksonville, Fla., after hearing how he intruded into the lives of dozens of celebrities and others and in some cases passed naked images along on the Internet.

Chaney, who has maintained he made no money from his actions, had already pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court to nine counts of computer hacking and wiretapping for the unauthorized access of email accounts belonging to 50 people in the entertainment industry.

Once Chaney got photos of the celebrities and other information, he forwarded the material to another hacker and two celebrity websites that made them public, according to a plea agreement.

Chaney has admitted that from at least November 2010 to October 2011, he hacked into the email accounts of Johansson, Kunis and others by taking their email addresses, clicking on the “Forgot your password?” feature and then resetting the passwords by correctly answering their security questions using publicly available information he found by searching the Internet.

Prosecutors said that once Chaney gained exclusive control of the victims’ email accounts, he was able to access all of their email boxes. While in the accounts, Chaney also went through their contact lists to find email addresses of potential new hacking targets, according to prosecutor Lisa Feldman.

Most victims did not check their account settings, so even after they regained control of their email accounts, Chaney’s alias address remained in their settings, the plea agreement said. Copies of their incoming emails, including attachments, were sent to Chaney for weeks or months without his victims’ knowledge, allowing him to receive thousands of emails, according to the plea agreement.

Chaney obtained numerous private communications, private photographs and confidential documents from the victims’ email accounts, according to the indictment.

The confidential documents included business contracts, scripts, letters, driver’s license information and Social Security information, the indictment said.

On several occasions, after hacking into victims’ accounts, Chaney sent emails from the hacked accounts to friends of the victims, fraudulently posing as the victims to request additional private photographs, according to the indictment. His activities were not restricted to celebrities. During his hacking, he also targeted several other young women.

Chaney could have faced a maximum sentence of 60 years in federal prison.