In what could be the latest of a series of high-profile "sextortion" cases, a Los Angeles man has been arrested for extorting nude pictures. According to an FBI release, Karen "Gary" Kazaryan is charged with 30 counts of hacking and identity theft in the wake of his January 29th arrest. Kazaryan is accused of hacking Facebook, Skype, or email accounts, then mining them for the names of friends, passwords to other sites, and nude or suggestive photos. From there, he apparently pretended to be the women he'd hacked, sending messages to the victim's friends asking them to "remove their clothing so that he could view and take pictures of them." Once the friends found out he wasn't who he appeared to be, he would use these pictures to coerce them into sending more.
Kazaryan has been indicted on 15 counts of computer intrusion and 15 counts of aggravated identity theft, but the FBI alleges his actual list of victims is much longer: he's estimated to have successfully targeted 350 in some way. Combined, the charges add up to a maximum 105 years — though it's unlikely an actual sentence would be anywhere near that, the number is likely to raise as many eyebrows as the ten-year final sentence handed down to "Hollywood hacker" Christopher Chaney last month.
30 counts of hacking and identity theft add up to a 105-year maximum penalty
Kazaryan's case touches on both the current debate over hacking penalties and the question of how to handle people who circulate nude pictures without the subject's permission. "Revenge porn" sites, which are thought to get pictures not only from ex-lovers but from places like hacked email accounts, have been the subject of multiple lawsuits, but it's not clear that there's much legal recourse for someone whose picture is posted online. "Sextortion" and hacking cases like this, however, tend to be more cut-and-dried legally, even if there's disagreement over how seriously to take the issue overall.
The method by which Kazaryan got photos is similar to that of Luis Mijangos, who hacked the computers of victims or their acquaintances and used the information he found to request nude images; Mijangos was sentenced to six years in 2011. A year before that, a Wisconsin teenager was sentenced to 15 years for tricking male classmates into sending nude photos and then blackmailing them into sex.