Los Angeles – An Illinois man was charged Friday with felony computer hacking for his involvement in the scheme that led to the illegal access of about 300 Apple iCloud and Gmail accounts, many of those from well-known celebrities.
Edward Majerczyk, 28, was named in the criminal information filed in the United States District Court in Los Angeles. He pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, more specifically over one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information, according to a press release from attorney’s 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,” commented Attorney Eileen M. Decker in a press release. “Defendant’s conduct was a profound intrusion into the privacy of his victims and created vulnerabilities at multiple online service providers.”
Even though Majerczyk was charged in Los Angeles, the parties involved have agreed to transfer the case to the Northern District of Illinois, for the entry of his guilty plea and sentencing, which could be the maximum of five years in federal prison.
The plea agreement was lodged in the court and will be executed upon transfer of the case to Illinois. According to the factual basis in the plea, from November 23, 2013, through August 2014, Majerczyk engaged in a phishing scheme to obtain usernames and passwords from his victims.
The hacker sent e-mails to the victims that appeared to be from security accounts of internet service providers that directed the people involved to a website able to collect the personal information.
The defendant not only hacked into emails accounts, but he also hacked into his victims’ private lives, causing embarrassment and lasting harm, commented Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
As most of the people use devices containing private information, cases like this remind them to protect the data. Members of the society whose information is in demand, can be even more vulnerable and directly targeted, he added.
The leaked data involved many celebrities such as Rihanna and Jennifer Lawrence, whose nude photos caused a lot of attention and critics from the public. However, investigators have not uncovered any evidence linking Majerczyk to the actual leaks.
Lawrence issued a statement addressing privacy violation. According to a statement from Vogue, the incident was qualified as a sex crime rather than a scandal. The Oscar-winning actress stated the incident was a sexual violation and a disgusting situation.
Other celebrities involved in the incident were Kate Upton, Ariana Grande, and Victoria Justice, although several pictures were reported faked. A “master list” circulated online, which allegedly had all the names of the people hacked, including Amber Heard, Kate Bosworth, Cara Delevingne, Kirsten Dunst, Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, Mary-Kate Olsen and Winona Ryder, but its authenticity was never confirmed.
One of the "Celebgate" hackers pleads guilty. https://t.co/wD9s4B2erf
— Complex (@ComplexMag) July 2, 2016
Source: United States District Court