A judge sentenced a former high school teacher to 34 months in prison Friday after the man pleaded guilty to his role in the “Celebgate” hack of iCloud and other accounts.
Of those convicted for the high-profile hack, Christopher Brannan, 31, received the harshest sentence for breaching accounts. The attack led to the circulation of nude photos and videos of model Kate Upton, actress Jennifer Lawrence and others.
Brannan and others gained access to more than 200 iCloud, Gmail, Facebook and Yahoo accounts by using email addresses that looked like legitimate security accounts. The hackers researched social media accounts for victim information and then sought answers to security questions through the email.
According to a press release issued Friday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia:
Brannan also gained access to victims’ accounts by using phishing email accounts designed to look like legitimate security accounts from Apple. Because of the victims’ belief that the email had come from Apple, the victims would provide their usernames and passwords. Brannan would then access the victims’ email accounts, and search for personal information such as sensitive and private photographs and videos, including nude photographs. Authorities identified Brannan as a suspect during a California-based FBI investigation into hacked iCloud accounts commonly known as “Celebgate.”
Celebgate and iCloud
At the time of the scandal, Apple faced allegations of a lapse in iCloud security. The iPhone-maker investigated and determined the hackers gained access with phishing schemes and through weak password protocols on the part of the victims.
Many of the private photos circulated on the dark web and through file sharing platforms like BitTorrent.
Brannan pleaded guilty in October in federal court in Richmond, Va.. He faced up to seven years in prison for his crimes.
Three other hackers involved faced prison sentences between eight and 18 months since 2016. Last year, Edward Majerczyk, 29, of Chicago, received a nine-month sentence. Authorities also ordered him to pay $5,700 in restitution to an unnamed victim who needed intense counseling after the violation.