A Pennsylvania man was charged today with felony computer hacking related to the infamous celeb nude photo leak from 2014, which targeted a number of stars including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Kaley Cuoco, Kirsten Dunst and more.
The U.S. Attorney's office states in a press release obtained by E! News that Ryan Collins, 36, of Lancaster, was taken in for "a phishing scheme that gave him illegal access to over 100 Apple and Google e-mail accounts, including those belonging to members of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles."
Collins agreed to plead guilty to a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and signed a plea agreement which had him agree to plead guilty to one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information.
While authorities link Collins to the illegal access of the victims' information, investigators have not uncovered any evidence linking Collins to the actual leaks or that Collins shared or uploaded the information he obtained.
"Today, people store important private information in their online accounts and in their digital devices," said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. "Lawless unauthorized access to such private information is a criminal offense. My Office remains committed to protecting sensitive and personal information from the malicious actions of sophisticated hackers and cyber criminals."
Although Collins has been charged in Los Angeles, his case will be transferred to Harrisburg in the Middle District of Pennsylvania for the entry of his guilty plea and sentencing. Once he enters the guilty plea, Collins will face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison, according to the release.
According to the U.S. Attorney's office, from November 2012 to September 2014, Collins sent e-mails to victims that appeared to be from Apple or Google and asked to provide their usernames and passwords. If the victim responded, Collins gained access to their email accounts, which he would then illegally access and obtain personal information including nude photographs and videos, according to his plea agreement.
In some instances, Collins would use a software program to download the entire contents of the victims' Apple iCloud backups. The release states that Collins gained control of at least 50 iCloud accounts and 72 Gmail accounts, most of which belonged to female celebrities.
"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," said David Bowdich, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office.
"We continue to see both celebrities and victims from all walks of life suffer the consequences of this crime and strongly encourage users of Internet-connected devices to strengthen passwords and to be skeptical when replying to emails asking for personal information."
Collins' case is an ongoing investigation by the FBI.