A Pennsylvania man has pleaded guilty to hacking celebrity iCloud accounts which allowed personal photos and videos to be published online. Ryan Collins faces up to five years in prison for the hack, which was often referred to as “The Fappening” and “Celebgate.”
Collins hijacked over 100 accounts belonging to celebrities and those close to them between November 2012 and September 2014, according to the Department of Justice. He used phishing emails that claimed to be from Apple and Google to trick them into handing over passwords.
However, Collins didn’t actually publish the photos on 4Chan and Reddit himself, according to the DOJ:
After illegally accessing the e-mail accounts, Collins obtained personal information including nude photographs and videos, according to his plea agreement. In some instances, Collins would use a software program to download the entire contents of the victims’ Apple iCloud backups.
The charge against Collins stems from the investigation into the leaks of photographs of numerous female celebrities in September 2014 known as “Celebgate.” However, investigators have not uncovered any evidence linking Collins to the actual leaks or that Collins shared or uploaded the information he obtained.
Many of Collins’ victims were members of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. By illegally accessing the e-mail accounts, Collins accessed at least 50 iCloud accounts and 72 Gmail accounts, most of which belonged to female celebrities.
It’s unlikely Collins will actually serve five years. According to the FBI, “parties have agreed to recommend a prison term of 18 months,” although “that recommendation will not be binding on the sentencing judge.”
It’s unclear if Collins was connected to the two Chicago men who had their homes searched by the FBI in 2014 as part of its investigation into the iCloud hacks. However, the U.S. District Attorney’s Office told Gawker that Collins “is directly related to that investigation.”