A Jacksonville, Fla. man by the name of Christopher Cheney was identified by the FBI as being the person who hacked into The Avengers star’s email account, and took possession of nude photos she posted there.
Here’s my take on the story:
But Scarlett Johansson wasn’t the only Hollywood star impacted by Christopher Cheney’s actions. Here’s the FBI’s account of the story:
LOS ANGELES—A man accused of targeting the entertainment industry by hacking into the personal e-mail accounts of celebrities was arrested today after being charged with a range of cyber-related crimes, announced André Birotte Jr., the United States Attorney in Los Angeles; and Steven Martinez, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
Christopher Chaney, 35, of Jacksonville, Florida, was arrested this morning by FBI agents without incident. A federal grand jury in Los Angeles returned a sealed indictment yesterday charging Chaney with violations under Title 18 of the U.S. Criminal Code, including: accessing protected computers without authorization; damaging protected computers without authorization; wiretapping; and aggravated identity theft.
According to the indictment, which was unsealed this morning, Chaney used several aliases while illegally obtaining personal information of numerous celebrities through a series of computer intrusions. The aliases used include: “trainreqsuckswhat,” “anonygrrl,” and “jaxjaguars911.”
Investigators believe that Chaney used publicly available sources to mine for data about his female and male victims, all of whom are associated with the entertainment industry. Once Chaney gained access and control of an e-mail account, he would obtain private information, such as e-mails and file attachments, according to the indictment. In addition, investigators believe that Chaney was led to new victims by accessing the address books of victims whose computers he already controlled.
Throughout the 11-month investigation, agents identified over 50 victims whose accounts were illegally accessed by Chaney. The 26-count indictment details specific instances in which Chaney violated 11 of the victims, some of whom are identified by initials only. The victims are identified in the indictment as: Simone Harouche, Mila Kunis, Christina Aguilera, Scarlett Johansson, Renee Olstead, B.P., J.A., L.B., L.S., D.F., and B.G.
The FBI reports that Cheney (who has the same last name as the former Vice President of the United States) got the into the admin section of the accounts of the stars he targeted and automatically forwarded the information to a mirror email account.
“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.”
One basic step is to change your password on a semi-regular basis.
Something else: don’t put nude photos of yourself in an email to someone else!
If the FBI charges stick, Chaney, who’s occupation was not given, faces 121 years in jail.