March 16th 2016
A man from the US has pleaded guilty to his role in the hacking of iCloud and Gmail accounts, which ultimately led to private photos of more than 100 people – including female celebrities – being leaked and published online, an episode which became popularly known as 'The Fappening'.
Nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Kirsten Dunst and other A list actresses were released on internet forum 4Chan.
36 year-old Ryan Collins from Pennsylvania has not been directly connected with actually leaking or posting the photos. However, he admitted the illegal act of gaining unauthorised access to a protected computer to obtain information – and is likely to serve an 18-month prison sentence. This could have been up to five years if he had leaked and posted the images and videos. He sent the victims phishing emails posing as those from Apple and Google between November 2012 and September 2014, resulting in him obtaining their login details. At least 50 iCloud accounts and 72 Gmail accounts were allegedly compromised, and the investigation continues.
Get Safe Online CEO, Tony Neate, commented: “We now know that phishing scams were the cause of the celebrity account hacks in 2014, and unfortunately, we’re seeing more and more cases of these targeted scams being used as a way to trick people into handing over personal or financial information. Last year, incidents of phishing scams rose by over 20% according to reported figures from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), showing just how rife they are becoming.
“What’s worrying is the complex and sophisticated nature of these scams and how they tap perfectly into feelings that make us panic – if we get an email purporting to come from someone we trust (such as our bank or an organisation like Apple) demanding that we act urgently, it’s almost like the perfect storm. Always think twice before acting and don’t let panic override your common sense.
“Your first line of defence for your email account is a strong password that is different to other online accounts and is changed regularly. Protecting all your devices with security software and regularly installing updates will also help to prevent fraudsters getting in. If you do have suspicions regarding an email from someone, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, so trust your instincts and double-check the person or organisation is who they say they are before handing over any information. This way, we can stay one step ahead and stop more people from falling prey to phishing scams.”