13 Oct 2011

Man arrested over Scarlett Johansson hacking

A man from Flordia has been arrested on suspicion of hacking celebrities computers. Christopher Chaney, 35, is charged with 26 counts of theft, unauthorised access to computers and wiretapping.

The most high-profile victim of the hacking scandal was Scarlett Johansson. Nude photos of the 26-year-old actress were stolen from her phone and posted on the internet. She was shown in a towel with her backside exposed, while another showed her topless.

The pictures were posted on several celebrity gossip websites before eventually being taken down.

Other victims included singer Christina Aguilera and actress Renee Olstead. The arrest follows an 11-month investigation by federal officers in the US.

“Cyber crime not only affects the rich and famous but everyone,” said US Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. He commended the celebrities involved, including Johansson, for releasing their names.

“We had a positive working relationship. They agreed to have their names released, to have a deterrent impact. It sends out a message,” he said.

Other victims were identified by their initials only, including BP, JA, LB and LS.

Birotte said that Chaney used unauthorised access to email accounts of the stars to intercept messages that in some cases included information about “movie scripts” and “nude photos”.

He is accused of mining publicly available data and used that to work out passwords of his victims. Email services from Google, Apple and Yahoo were affected.

Steven Martinez, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, said: “Celebrity information is highly marketable and we know (there are those who are) willing to purchase.”

But officials said there was no information that Chaney has profited from hacking.