Analecta Cyber Company Blog: Man accused of hacking celebrity email accounts

2016-01-26

Man accused of hacking celebrity email accounts

U.S. authorities announced, just days before Christmas, that a young Bahamian national was arrested in Manhattan and charged with hacking. This was a particularly noteworthy hacking case because the man’s victims were all celebrities.
The hacker managed to infiltrate celebrities’ personal email accounts and gather various sensitive information, including scripts for unreleased movies and TV shows and even sexually explicit personal photos, authorities said.



The hacker, arrested four days before Christmas, was charged with one count each of criminal copyright infringement and identity theft. According to the prosecutor, the man acquired and then tried to sell information he gathered to the highest bidder. This involved celebrities and other professionals in the entertainment, professional sports and media industries.

As part of the investigations, prosecutors confirmed that an executive producers for a  premium cable TV drama was told scripts for an upcoming season may have been illegally acquired by a hacker.

Emails worth thousands

Consequently, a popular radio host received an unsolicited email offer to buy those hacked scripts. He immediately contacted the show’s executive producer and told him on the matter.

The radio host then introduced an undercover law enforcement agent to the hacker in an effort to arrest him.

The hacker claimed he had obtained materials “worth hundreds of thousands of dollars” and was “really profitable” from celebrities without them even knowing. He added that he could get more if the “buyer” requested.

Some of the data that the hacker claimed to have gathered include email addresses and phone numbers of at least 130 entertainment, sports and media professionals and sexually explicit images and videos of certain celebrities.

The hacker asserted that he could obtain personal identification information of celebrities and as a proof, showed the agent a passport, Social Security number, and other information of a popular film actor.

The hacker, in a setup meeting with the agent in Manhattan, disclosed that he managed to access celebrities’ email accounts using two methods. The first involved a virus that allowed him to infiltrate celebrities' computers. The other method was via a phishing scam involving a false notification saying that the celebrities’ accounts had been hacked and subsequently asking for their passcode.

Through the two methods, he managed to change the settings of the victims’ email accounts and maintained access without the user’s knowledge. And for $80,000, he tried selling 15 movies and television scripts he had stolen. After revealing that information to the “undercover buyer”, authorities arrested him.

If convicted, the hacker may face up to 10 years in prison.