Remember The Fappeneing? It looks like the police have got their guy!
The 29-year-old Andrew Helton was accused of accessing nude images of Hollywood stars and was detained on felony hacking charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The Portland resident, in a surprise turn of events, has pleaded guilty as charged.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Helton duped hundreds of celebrities and illegally stole their personal usernames and passwords. The hacker pleaded guilty this Thursday to a felony breach and is now expecting a sentence of up to 5 years in prison. His sentencing is due to occur in June.
The Police statement suggests that Helton used social engineering tactics to target Hollywood stars. His modus operandi involved sending emails to these stars, which appeared to be sent by Google or Apple. After infecting their computers, he acquired the credentials of their personal email/iCloud/Google Albums accounts.
This plan was conducted between March 2011 and May 2013. Helton, reportedly, gained access to around “161 sexually explicit, nude and/or partially nude” images and managed to target 13 people on the whole including celebrities.
[q]He stole 161 sexually explicit, nude and/or partially nude” images[/q]
According to Thom Mrozek, DOJ’s spokesman, “we have no evidence that the photos were posted online nor do we have evidence that he was shopping them around to any tabloids.”
This case seems to be identical to the Fappening or the Celebgate that made headlines in September 2014 but it is also different in many respects. For instance, Helton accessed the images prior to Fappening but chose not to leak them at the time. Fappening hackers, on the other hand, gained access to more than 600 accounts all of which belonged to Hollywood stars. Helton only managed to acquire nude images of only a handful of celebrities. Fappening hackers, however, leaked the nude images of famous celebrities like Kris Jenner, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lawrence, Kaley Cuoco and Kirsten Dunst, etc., almost immediately after stealing them.
When the DOJ was inquired about the names of the celebrities involved in Helton’s case, the department clearly stated that “we don’t give out names of victims.”
The case had been referred by Apple to the FBI after it was reported, just like the case in Celebgate. The FBI’s Assistant Director in Charge of Los Angeles Field Office David Bowdich stated that:
“The thought of a stranger accessing your private communications for sport or monetary gain can be devastating. This insidious crime has distressed scores of average individuals, as well as celebrity victims. The FBI is committed to holding accountable those who illegally intrude upon the cyber landscape, and to educating consumers about strengthening passwords and employing two-factor authentication, among other safeguards.”