January 12, 2018

North Branford man to plead guilty in 'Celebgate' hacking case

A North Branford man has pleaded guilty to a felony computer hacking charge related to the 2014 "Celebgate" cybercrime in which celebrities' nude photos were exposed on the internet, federal authorities say.

George Garofano, 26, was charged Thursday by the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles for allegedly violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Garofano agreed to plead guilty to one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information.

The crime, for which Garofano is expected to plead guilty in the District of Connecticut, involved breaking into A-list celebrities' private Apple iCloud accounts and then publishing their nude photos across the internet. Once he enters the guilty plea, Garofano will face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison, authorities say.

According to the plea agreement, Garofano engaged in a phishing scheme to obtain usernames and passwords for iCloud accounts from April 2013 through October 2014. Garofano admitted that he sent emails to victims that appeared to be from security accounts of Apple and encouraged the victims to send him their usernames and passwords, or to enter them on a third-party website, where he would later retrieve them.

Garofano then illegally accessed his victims' iCloud accounts, which allowed him to steal personal information, including sensitive and private photographs and videos. In some cases, Garofano traded the usernames and passwords, as well as the materials he stole from the victims, with other individuals, the plea agreement states.

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