Celebgate mastermind gets 9 months in US federal prison

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The hacker who played a key role in the 2014 ‘Celebgate’ scandal was sentenced on Tuesday to nine months in federal prison and to pay $5,700 in restitution for a celebrity who needed counselling.

In July 2016, 29-year-old Chicago resident Edward Majerczyk was charged with hacking “into his victims’ private lives, causing embarrassment and lasting harm,” according to Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.

“Hacking of online accounts to steal personal information is not merely an intrusion of an individual’s privacy but is a serious violation of federal law,” United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker said last year. “Defendant’s conduct was a profound intrusion into the privacy of his victims and created vulnerabilities at multiple online service providers.”

Through phishing attacks between November 2013 and August 2014, Majerczyk stole the passwords for the iCloud and Gmail accounts of at least 300 users, including 30 celebrities living in the Los Angeles area, such as Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union. As many as 100 celebrities were targeted.

Once he breached the accounts, he gained access to their emails and photos. 500 private photos, some containing nudity, were leaked online on Reddit and 4chan, yet authorities have not accused Majerczyk of leaking the material himself.

“The conduct is abhorrent,” U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras said during the trial. “It’s a very, very trying time that we live in.”

Following a meeting with actress Jennifer Lawrence, an FBI agent wrote “she became very distraught and I had to stop the interview at one point because of her emotional reaction to the information being discussed. (She) stated she was having an anxiety attack, and was visibly shaken.”

Thomas Needham, Majerczyk’s lawyer, claimed the man was “suffering from depression and looked to pornography websites and Internet chat rooms in an attempt to fill some of the voids and disappointment he was feeling in his life.”

‘Celebgate’ has also been associated with Pennsylvania resident Ryan Collins, who in October was sentenced to 18 months in prison for hacking 600 celebrities.

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