The hacker who broke into more than 100 Apple and Google email accounts and stole nude photos of female celebrities in 2014 has been sentenced to 18 months in a federal prison, authorities announced on Thursday (27 October). In May, 36-year-old Ryan Collins from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, plead guilty to a felony computer hacking charges and was charged with illegally accessing hundreds of email accounts, including those belonging to several celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence, Aubrey Plaza, Kate Upton, Rihanna and Avril Lavigne.
Between November 2012 and September 2014, Collins conducted a phishing scheme to trick victims into giving him their login credentials by sending phony emails that appeared to be from Apple or Google, court documents state. The hacker then stole personal information including nude photographs and videos from the accounts, many of which belonged to the female celebrities.
"In some instances, Collins would use a software program to download the entire contents of the victims' Apple iCloud backups," the US Attorney's office said in a statement. "In addition, Collins ran a modelling scam in which he tricked his victims into sending him nude photographs."
Identifying more than 600 victims, investigators found that Collins accessed at least 50 iCloud accounts and 72 Gmail accounts.
Investigators said they have not found evidence linking Collins to the so-called 'Celebgate' or 'Fappening' leak of nude celebrity photographs in 2014 or that he himself shared or uploaded the stolen information.
"By illegally accessing intimate details of his victims' personal lives, Mr Collins violated their privacy and left many to contend with lasting emotional distress, embarrassment and feelings of insecurity," David Bowdich, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office, previously said.
In September, a second hacker, 28-year-old Edward Majerczyk of Illinois pleaded guilty to similar charges filed against Collins.
In response to mounting criticism following the leak alleging that the breach occurred due to faults in Apple's iCloud services, the Cupertino company said it suffered from "a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security cases".
"After more than 40 hours of investigation, we have discovered that certain celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the internet," Apple said at the time. "None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple's systems including iCloud or Find my iPhone."
Google was also threatened with a $100m lawsuit by some celebrities who had their nude photos stolen, accusing the company of "not only failing to expeditiously and responsibly to remove the Images, but in knowingly accommodating, facilitating and perpetuating the unlawful conduct".