Scarlett Johansson hacker gets 10-year jail stretch
Broke email accounts of numerous celebrities
By John E Dunn
December 19, 2012 — Techworld — A man who hacked dozens of email accounts belonging to Hollywood celebrities including Scarlett Johansson has been handed a tough ten year jail sentence by a US court.
Charged by police in October 2011, 35 year-old Christopher Chaney from Florida was accused of breaking into the Yahoo, Gmail and Apple email accounts of a large number of notables using password reset attacks, posting and offering the private data he stole to gossip websites.
Although several famous people were victims of his attacks from late 2010 onwards, but it was topless photographs he posted of Scarlett Johansson that formed the media centrepiece of the case.
The court watched a video-taped statement in which the tearful actress described how she had been "truly humiliated and embarrassed" by the exposure.
"That feeling of security can never be given back and there is no compensation that can restore the feeling one has from such a large invasion of privacy," read a separate statement by another victim, singer Christina Aguilera.
What will have counted against Chaney was the systematic nature of his hacking as well as its extraordinary scale, taking in at least 50 victims, including two women known to him.
After striking a plea deal with prosecutors and being hit with a $66,179 restitution fine (APS41,000), Chaney was still hit with a heavy sentence by the Los Angeles court.
"I don't know what else to say except I'm sorry," Chaney said during his sentencing. This will never happen again," Chaney was reported as saying.
As well as sending out a warning to Internet snoopers, the case has also brought home the incredible vulnerability of Internet-based email systems in a faint echo of a much more limited case that involved vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in 2008.
In that case, the hacking and posting of Palin's email@example.com email by David Kernell was accepted as a one-off and the accused was given a one year and one day term in a halfway house.