A Richmond man was sentenced today to almost three years in prison for charges of unauthorized access to a protected computer and aggravated identity theft.
According to court documents, Christopher Brannan, 31, intentionally accessed without authorization Internet and email accounts, including Apple iCloud, Yahoo!, and Facebook accounts, and obtained complete iCloud backups, photographs, and other private information belonging to more than 200 victims, including both celebrities and non-celebrities. Brannan hacked email accounts by answering security questions that he could easily research by reviewing victims’ Facebook accounts.
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 “The Fappening” or “Celebgate.”
As part of Brannan’s plea agreement, the United States made a non-binding recommendation to the Court that he be sentenced to 34 months in prison. At sentencing, Senior U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson accepted the government’s recommendation and imposed the agreed-upon sentence.
G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Thomas M. Chadwick, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office, made the announcement after the sentencing hearing. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian R. Hood prosecuted the case.
Source: U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
MacDailyNews Take: Again, despite some celebrities initially blaming Apple, and never, to our knowledge, correcting their statements and apologizing to Apple, this was not Apple’s fault.
Scammers often try to trick you into sharing personal or financial information by sending you messages or links to websites that might look like they’re from Apple, but their actual purpose is to steal your account information. Some phishing emails will ask you to click on a link to update your account information. Others might look like a receipt for a purchase in the App Store, iTunes Store, iBooks Store or for Apple Music.
Never enter your account information on websites linked from these messages, and never download or open attachments included within them.
As an aside, Apple makes sharing photos and videos very easy; too easy in some cases, depending on the contents of the photographs and videos.
As we wrote back in August 2017: We’re hoping Apple will just allow us to truly hide and password-protect photos and videos right in the Photos app, or even in the camera app (via, for example, a lock/unlock icon in the Camera app where “locked” signifies that you’re currently shooting a password-protected photo/video that will not be shared via My Photo Stream and that will be locked in iCloud Photo Library).
Hacker sentenced to prison for role in Jennifer Lawrence nude photo theft via Apple iCloud hack – August 29, 2018
How to keep your personal intimate photos off Apple’s iCloud – June 19, 2018
New Nude app is a photo vault that uses AI to hide your sensitive photos – October 17, 2017
How to make sure you remove photos from iCloud Photo Library – October 10, 2017
How to hide photos and videos on your iPhone in a locked and private album – August 24, 2017
Second ‘Fappening’ hacker who targeted celebrity Apple accounts sentenced to 9 months in prison – January 26, 2017
36-year-old man to plead guilty to iCloud ‘Fappening’ celebrity nude photo theft – March 15, 2016
‘Fappening’ celebrity nude leak suspect alleged to have hacked 572 iCloud accounts – June 10, 2015
iCloud accounts at risk after hacker releases tool allowing access to any login – January 2, 2015
Jennifer Lawrence calls nude photo hacking a ‘sex crime’ – October 7, 2014
Apple’s iCloud security nightmare gets worse as more nude celebrity pics leak – September 21, 2014
Since the celebrity nude iCloud hacks, one third of Americans have improved their online security – September 8, 2014
Apple denies iCloud breach – September 3, 2014
How easy is it to crack into an Apple iCloud account? We tried to find out – September 3, 2014
Celeb nudes: Comprehensive review of forum posts reveals no mention of ‘Find My iPhone’ brute force technique – September 2, 2014
Apple’s iCloud is secure; weak passwords and gullible users are not – September 2, 2014
Apple: No iCloud breach in celebrity nude photos leak – September 2, 2014
FBI, Apple investigating alleged iCloud hack of celebrity nude, sex photos and videos – September 2, 2014
Celebrity or not, Apple isn’t responsible for your nude photos – September 2, 2014
Apple ‘actively investigating’ Jennifer Lawrence, other nude celebrity photos hack – September 1, 2014