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Celebrity Hacker Receives 10-Year Sentence For E-mail Hack

Christopher Chaney has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for stealing and posting private information from more than 50 celebrities.

Chaney was found guilty of hacking into a number of celebrity e-mail accounts and posting their private information on the web, with victims including Mila Kunis, Scarlett Johansson, Christina Aguilera, Simone Harouche and Renee Olstead.

"It's hard to fathom the mindset of a person who would accomplish all of this," said U.S. District Judge James Otero. "These types of crimes are as pernicious and serious as physical stalking."

Chaney, aged 35, was arrested last year following an 11-month investigation dubbed by federal officials as "Operation Hackerazzi." The hacker initially pled not guilty, but then agreed a plea deal to nine counts, including identity theft, wiretapping, as well as unauthorized access of protected computers. Moreover, he agreed to give up his computers, external drives and cell phone.

More than 50 individuals from the entertainment industry were affected by the hacks. However, only a select few agreed to be identified by name in order to offer awareness about online information theft.

Chaney admitted to hacking into the celebrities' accounts, reading through private e-mails, confidential documents and ultimately publicizing such personal information. He also sent photos to two celebrity sites, with one set including nude snaps of Johansson taken privately to send to her then-husband Ryan Reynolds.

The hacker gained access to the accounts through the "Forgot your password?" feature within victims' e-mail accounts. He then reset the passwords by answering security questions deriving from public information found on the internet. Chaney received thousands of e-mails from the victims' accounts, according to his plea agreement.

Otero heard a videotaped statement from Johansson where she said, "I have been truly humiliated and embarrassed. I find Christopher Chaney's actions to be perverted and reprehensible."

Chaney had initially faced up to 60 years in prison, with prosecutors working to to get him at least six. Otero, however, sentenced a 10-year prison term as he believed the hacker would not control his behavior and showed a "callous disregard" for his actions. The judge also said that Chaney will receive three years of supervised probation when his sentence is completed.

 

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