Celebgate hacker faces up to 5 years in prison after guilty plea

5 Jul 2016

Jennifer Lawrence was on of the victims in the Celebgate hacking scandl

One of the hackers involved in the so-called ‘Celebgate’ breach of Gmail and iCloud accounts two years ago has admitted his part in the incident and will now face up to five years in prison.

Occurring in 2014, Celebgate – whose victims included high-profile actress Jennifer Lawrence – proved to be a wake-up call for the need for greater control over your personal privacy, whether you are a wealthy celebrity or your average person on the street, as hundreds of very personal photos were leaked online.

Now, after hacker Ryan Collins previously pleaded guilty to his part in illegally gaining access to people’s Gmail and iCloud accounts, 28-year-old Edward Majerczyk has become the second hacker to plead guilty to being behind it.

10pc of accessed accounts were celebrities

Future Human

According to the statement released by the US Department of Justice, Majerczyk has now been charged with being behind a phishing scheme that gave him access to more than 300 accounts, 30 of which belonged to famous faces in music, film and TV.

As part of his plea agreement, Majerczyk admitted to sending emails to Celebgate victims pretending to be a member of a security team of an internet service provider, where he then gave them a malicious link that was able to then strip them of their usernames and passwords.

However, the court statement also said that, despite him admitting to having been involved with obtaining the photos, investigators were unable to find any evidence that Majerczyk himself actually leaked the photos online.

A reminder to protect data

Despite this, he now faces a maximum of five years in prison for his part in the breach, which has been described by one of the attorneys involved in the case as “a profound intrusion into the privacy of his victims”.

Speaking after the verdict, FBI assistant director, Deirdre Fike, said of Majerczyk’s part in the breach: “This defendant not only hacked into e-mail accounts – he hacked into his victims’ private lives, causing embarrassment and lasting harm.”

“As most of us use devices containing private information, cases like this remind us to protect our data. Members of society whose information is in demand can be even more vulnerable, and directly targeted.”

Jennifer Lawrence image via Helga Esteb/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic