Notorious 'Celebgate' hacker pleads guilty in US

A 36-year-old man from Lancaster, Pennsylvania has pleaded guilty to hacking into the iCloud and Gmail accounts of celebrities in a long-term phishing attack.

Ryan Collins agreed to sign a plea deal that implicates him in the 2014 nude celebrity photo hacking scandal. 

Collins admitted that he illegally gained access and downloaded photos from 50 iCloud accounts and 72 Gmail accounts that he compromised between November 2012 and September 2014. The images, many of which contained nudity, were leaked and shared all over the internet.

The charges against Collins were brought up in an investigation of the leaks of photos of a number of female celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence. The hack came to be known as “Celebgate”.

New York Magazine states that Collins most likely did not act alone as he is identified as “one of the people” behind the attack. The case against Collins is the product of an ongoing investigation by the FBI. 

“By illegally accessing intimate details of his victims' personal lives, Mr Collins violated their privacy and left many to contend with lasting emotional distress, embarrassment and feelings of insecurity,” said David Bowdich, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles field office. 

“We continue to see both celebrities and victims from all walks of life suffer the consequences of this crime and strongly encourage users of internet-connected devices to strengthen passwords and to be skeptical when replying to emails asking for personal information.”