Alleged Scarlett Johansson hacker didn't plan to profit, FBI says
Celebrities are accustomed to stalkers trying to get too close.
But the FBI on Wednesday accused a man of gleaning intimate details from the lives of several top actresses and singers — including nude photos — from 3,000 miles away.
Working from his home computer in Jacksonville, Fla., authorities say, Christopher Chaney, 35, allegedly hacked into the email accounts of such big names as Mila Kunis, Christina Aguilera and Scarlett Johansson.
And authorities say he did it the hard way. Mining details of the stars’ personal lives in celebrity magazine and websites as well as Twitter and Facebook posts, Chaney looked for potential passwords that would give him access to their accounts, the FBI said.
Once he cracked the password, officials charged, he hit a gold mine, gaining access to the stars’ address books as well as any photos and other files saved in their email accounts.
He used an email forwarding program that automatically sent a duplicate of any messages the stars received to his own account. So, even when the celebrities changed their passwords, he would know about it, officials said.
Chaney was arrested this week in Jacksonville on various hacking charges and faces up 121 years in prison if found guilty on all counts.
The arrest caps a yearlong FBI probe into celebrity hacking that has generated much interested in the Hollywood tabloid world. There were many theories about the identity of the hacker, with some speculating it was someone trying blackmail or embarrass the stars — or make money off the information.
But federal officials said Chaney appears to have acted alone and seemed to have no plans to contact the stars or sell his information.
FBI officials said the case underscores the changing nature of celebrity stalking in the computer age.
"The case brings us to a new word in expanding lexicon of cybercrime — 'hackerrazzi,' " said Steven Martinez, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles field office. "We continue to receive complaints involving the targeting of high-profile figures.”
-- Andrew Blankstein in Westwood and Richard Winton
Photo: The FBI's Cameron Malin, left, describes "Operation Hackerazzi," joined by U.S. Atty. Andre Birotte Jr., center, and Steven Martinez, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles field office. Credit: Danny Moloshok / Reuters