Florida man to plead guilty to celebrity account hacking

23 Mar 2012

Scarlett Johansson with two soldiers from the US Marines in early 2008 during her five-day USO tour to the Gulf region. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Christopher Chaney, a 35-year-old from Jacksonville in Florida, is set to plead guilty to federal charges in the US that are accusing him of hacking into the email accounts of such celebrities as Scarlett Johansson, Christina Aguilera and Mila Kunis to access nude photos and distribute them on the internet.

According to court documents filed yesterday, Chaney will plead guilty this coming Monday in a Los Angeles federal court to nine felony counts. These include unauthorised access to a computer and wiretapping, according to the documents.

And, if he is convicted, Chaney could be looking at a 60-year prison sentence.

It was back on 12 October 2011 that Chaney was first arrested, as part of a lengthy FBI investigation into celebrity hacking called ‘Operation Hackerazzi’.

At the time, the FBI said that, according to the indictment, Chaney used several aliases while illegally obtaining personal information of numerous celebrities through a series of computer intrusions. The aliases he used included ‘trainreqsuckswhat’, ‘anonygrrl’ and ‘jaxjaguars911’.

The FBI said Chaney distributed some of the files he obtained illegally, including photos of celebrities, and offered them to various celebrity blog sites. Some of the illegally obtained files, including private photographs, were ultimately posted online as a result of Chaney’s alleged activities.

FBI investigators said they believed Chaney used publicly available sources to mine for data about his female and male victims. Once Chaney gained access and control of an email account, he would obtain private information, such as emails and file attachments.

FBI agents identified more than 50 victims whose accounts were illegally accessed by Chaney. Some of the celebrities Chaney violated were only identifiable by initials only. As well as Simone Harouche, Mila Kunis, Christina Aguilera, Scarlett Johansson and Renee Olstead, other Chaney targets included  B.P., J.A., L.B., L.S., D.F., and B.G.

In the December issue of Vanity Fair, Scarlett Johansson indicated that the nude photos she had taken of herself, which Chaney posted on the internet, had been intended for the actor Ryan Reynolds, when they were married.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic