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"Celebgate" Hacker Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison

Ryan Collins, 36, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to prison on Wednesday for hacking into over 100 online accounts, including many belonging to celebrities. Private pictures and videos stolen from these accounts were later leaked online in what became known as “The Fappening” or “Celebgate.”

Collins was charged with computer hacking in March and he later pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison for a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and was immediately taken into custody.

According to authorities, Collins sent numerous phishing emails between November 2012 and September 2014. The fake messages purported to come from Apple and Google and they were designed to trick recipients into handing over their username and password.

Investigators determined that Collins managed to hack into at least 50 iCloud and 72 Gmail accounts, many of which belonged to female celebrities. However, there is no evidence that he was also responsible for sharing or leaking the nude photographs and videos obtained from hacked accounts.

In addition to hacking into online accounts, authorities said Collins also ran a modeling scam in which he tricked victims into sending him nude photos.

Collins is not the only suspect in the Celebgate case. Edward Majerczyk, 28, of Illinois, last month admitted hacking into more than 300 iCloud and Gmail accounts after phishing their credentials via a scheme similar to the one ran by Collins.

Majerczyk, who hasn’t been linked to the actual leaks either, will be sentenced in January 2017. He faces up to five years in prison.

In mid-2015, authorities revealed that they had searched the home of a Chicago man named Emilio Herrera, who was also believed to be involved. Investigators tracked him down based on an IP address.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.