Scarlett Johansson Nude Photo Hacker Arrested
LOS ANGELES -- A Florida man was charged with hacking into celebrity email accounts in a computer invasion scheme that led to the posting of private and revealing information, including nude photos of actress Scarlett Johansson, on the Internet, federal authorities said Wednesday.
Christopher Chaney, 35, of Jacksonville, was arrested without incident as part of a yearlong investigation of celebrity hacking that authorities dubbed "Operation Hackerazzi."
There were more than 50 victims in the case, including Mila Kunis, Christina Aguilera and actress Renee Olstead, authorities said. Others were named only by initials and investigators wouldn't disclose if they were famous, but said victims named in the indictment agreed to have their identities made public.
"It helps get out the message that cyber-hacking is a real threat," U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte said of the case, describing those who engage in such activity as "scum."
Chaney made his initial court appearance in a Florida courtroom Wednesday and was released on $10,000 bond. He was charged with 26 counts of identity theft, unauthorized access to a protected computer and wiretapping. If convicted, he faces up to 121 years in prison. An email left for Assistant Federal Public Defender Maurice Grant II was not immediately returned.
Celebrities and people in the news have long been targets of privacy invasion but concerns have redoubled in the Internet age.
In Britain, publisher Rupert Murdoch closed down the News of the World this year after contentions that the tabloid routinely hacked into people's phones in the hunt for exclusive stories. The paper, which had published for 168 years, faced allegations of systematically intercepting private voicemail of those in the news – including a teenage murder victim.
Authorities said Chaney was responsible for stealing nude photos taken by Johansson herself and were later posted on the Internet. Chaney offered some material to celebrity blog sites but there is no evidence that he profited from his scheme, said Steven Martinez, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles office.
"Celebrity information is highly marketable," said Martinez, who added his office continues to receive complaints about celebrities' having their personal information breached.
Representatives for Johansson, Kunis and Aguilera did not immediately respond to calls and emails seeking comment.
Chaney hacked Google, Apple and Yahoo email accounts beginning last November through February, then hijacked the forwarding feature so that a copy of every email received was sent, "virtually instantaneously," to an email account he controlled, according to an indictment handed up Tuesday by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles.
He allegedly used the hacker names "trainreqsuckswhat," "anonygrrl" and "jaxjaguars911," and also used the victims' identities to illegally access and control computers. Chaney is accused of damaging email servers that caused losses of at least $5,000 per instance.
Authorities wouldn't say whether Chaney was able to access email accounts via cell phones, but he was able to figure out secure passwords to various celebrity accounts through information that had been made public.
Chaney "mined through publicly available data and figured out passwords and security questions," Martinez said.
A message seeking comment was left on an answering machine for a Christopher Chaney in Jacksonville. There was no answer at a telephone listing for another Christopher Chaney.
Investigators said they hoped the celebrity-infused case will jumpstart those who don't value online security enough to protect their personal information and create more secure passwords that can't be easily figured out by would-be hackers.
"Taking these steps will go a long way in protecting yourself from the financial and emotional costs of having someone intrude on your private life and potentially steal your identity," Birotte said.
Associated Press writer Curt Anderson in Miami contributed to this report.
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 17: Actress Scarlett Johansson attends the curtain call for the 'Cat On A Hot Tin Roof' opening night at Richard Rodgers Theatre on January 17, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 17: Actress Scarlett Johansson attends the 'Cat On A Hot Tin Roof' Broadway opening night after party at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers on January 17, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 27: Scarlett Johansson attends 'Cat On A Hot Tin Roof' photo call at Sardi's on November 27, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: Actress Scarlett Johansson attends the 'Hitchcock' New York Premiere at Ziegfeld Theater on November 18, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Actress Scarlett Johansson speaks on stage during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 07: Scarlett Johansson attends the 'Schiaparelli And Prada: Impossible Conversations' Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 7, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 02: Actress Scarlett Johansson and actor Jeremy Renner pose as Scarlett Johansson is honored with a star on The Hollywood Walk Of Fame on May 2, 2012 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 02: Actress Scarlett Johansson is honored with a star on The Hollywood Walk Of Fame on May 2, 2012 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - APRIL 21: (L to R) Actors Tom Hiddlestone, Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo attend 'The Avengers' photocall at De Russie Hotel on April 21, 2012 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 19: Scarlett Johansson attends Marvel Avengers Assemble European Premiere at Vue Westfield on April 19, 2012 in London, England. on April 19, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
US actress Scarlett Johansson arrives for the Dolce & Gabbana Spring-Summer 2012 ready-to-wear collection on September 25, 2011 during the Milan's women fashion week. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
CULVER CITY, CA - JUNE 04: Actress Scarlett Johansson arrives at Spike TV's 5th annual 2011 'Guys Choice' Awards at Sony Pictures Studios on June 4, 2011 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
CULVER CITY, CA - JUNE 04: Actress Scarlett Johansson arrives at Spike TV's 5th annual 2011 'Guys Choice' Awards at Sony Pictures Studios on June 4, 2011 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CA - APRIL 20: Actress Scarlett Johansson arrives at an Evening of Cocktails and Shopping to Benefit the Children's Defense Fund hosted by Coach at Bad Robot on April 20, 2011 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for Coach)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 30: Scarlett Johansson attends the 2011 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner at the Washington Hilton on April 30, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 27: Actress Scarlett Johansson arrives at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards held at the Kodak Theatre on February 27, 2011 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 27: Actress Scarlett Johansson arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar party hosted by Graydon Carter held at Sunset Tower on February 27, 2011 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 23: Actress Scarlett Johansson attends Vanity Fair Campaign Hollywood 2011 continues with the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas & The Art of Elysium 'Pieces of Heaven Art Auction' held at Siren Studios on February 23, 2011 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
Actress Scarlett Johansson arrives on the red carpet for the 68th annual Golden Globe awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California January 16, 2011. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Actress Scarlett Johansson arrives on the red carpet of the 68th annual Golden Globe awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on January 16, 2011. AFP PHOTO/Valerie MACON (Photo credit should read VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images)
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