Ryan Collins, a 36-year-old Pennsylvania man accused of playing a key role in the "Celebgate" breach in 2014, will plead guilty to violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which will mark the first conviction related to the high-profile hack. Collins spent roughly two years tricking victims online, some of which worked in Hollywood, into handing over sensitive data like email addresses and passwords by pretending to work for Apple and Google, according to federal prosecutors. Once inside the accounts, Collins was able to access full iCloud backups containing nude photos and videos. Photos from Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton were included in the eventual leak.
In total, Collins broke into as many as 50 iCloud accounts and 72 Gmail accounts. He was charged with one count of felony computer hacking and one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer. Although the charges contain a maximum prison sentence of five years, prosecutors recommended Collins serve 18 months after reaching a plea deal. "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 office, said in a statement.
Collins is not being charged with leaking the photos online
Notably, Collins is not being charged with leaking the material to online forums Reddit and 4chan, which brought widespread visibility to the breach and exposed the photos and videos to millions of people online. The investigation around who did post the photos online is ongoing, the US District Attorney's Office told Gawker, and is related to the raiding of two Chicago men's homes in 2014. The aftermath of the hacks led Apple to increase security measures around iCloud, iTunes, and iMessage to prevent hackers from breaking in using stolen information.