The FBI on Wednesday arrested and charged a Florida man with hacking into the accounts of several Hollywood celebrities, including Scarlett Johansson, whose nude photos were scattered far and wide across the Web in September.
Christopher Chaney, 35, of Jacksonville, Florida, was picked up outside the state by the FBI on Wednesday and indicted by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles, California, the culmination of a year-long investigation the agency dubbed “Operation Hackerazzi,” according to a statement posted on the FBI’s Los Angeles bureau website.
He is facing 26 different indictments related to violations of Title 18 of the U.S. Criminal Code, including “accessing protected computers without authorization; damaging protected computers without authorization; wiretapping; and aggravated identity theft,” and could face up to 121 years in prison, the FBI says.
“While the case against Mr. Chaney involves celebrities who were targeted because of their fame, this case reminds us that we are all potential victims of computer hackers,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “Everyone can take simple steps that will help protect a computer system. Taking these steps will go a long way in protecting yourself from the financial and emotional costs of having someone intrude on your private life and potentially steal your identity.”
Chaney stands accused of violating the email accounts of 11 different individuals without authorization on multiple occasions beginning in November 2010, including those of Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis and Christina Aguilera, according to a 36-page grand jury indictment obtained by The Smoking Gun.
Several of the individuals in the indictment are only identified by their initials, “B.P.,” “J.A.,” “L.B.,” “L.S.,” “D.F.,” and “B.G.”
The FBI claims that Chaney was actually able to illegally access up to 50 email accounts in total based on accessing the address books of a few email accounts he broke into initially, but only details his access of 11 in the indictment.
The suspect also allegedly set up email forwarding to receive “virtually instantaneously a copy of every e-mail received in the celebrity’s account,” even after account owners had changed the settings and “thereafter distributed to others some of the information that he obtained by his unauthorized access.” Some of the information was used to access computers and programs signed in as the victims.
Chaney is also identified in the indictment by his online aliases: “jaxjaguars911,” “anonygrrl” and and “trainreqsuckswhat,” the latter an insult to another hacker, Joshua Holly, alias “tranreq,” who admitted to hacking into the email account of Miley Cyrus and is due to be sentenced on other charges later this month, The Smoking Gun explains.
And yet, Chaney reportedly did it all not for money but for the thrill of it, according to TMZ.
Nude photographs of Johansson, apparently taken from her email account, were posted online September 14, prompting her to enlist the help of the FBI.