Tech & Science

Jennifer Lawrence ‘Fappening’ Hacker Receives 8 Month Prison Sentence

A U.S. man who illegally hacked into hundreds of Apple iCloud accounts to steal private images of celebrities was sentenced to eight months in prison on Wednesday.

George Garofano, 26, of North Branford in Connecticut, covertly gained access to approximately 240 accounts—with many victims working in the entertainment industry in California. The hacks resulted in what became known as "The Fappening"—when nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Cara Delevingne and others were leaked online without consent.

Between April 2013 and October 2014, Garofano played a role in a phishing scheme that posed as an Apple security notice to obtain usernames and passwords of their accounts.

In some cases, he traded login information with others, investigators said. According to the Department of Justice (DoJ), non-celebrities in Connecticut were also targeted. Garofano, who is currently released on a $50,000 bond, was ordered to report to prison on October 10. After his prison term, attorney John Durham ruled he will face three years of supervised release.

Also known as “Celebgate” at the time, the stolen images—many of a sexual nature—spread quickly across tabloid websites and online messageboards including Reddit and 4Chan. As material continued to be released, the FBI was tasked with investigating the breaches.

In September 2014, Apple said it was “outraged” by the user account hacking. “Celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack,” the company said. Lawrence, one of the most high-profile victims, told Variety that the photo leak was like a “sex crime.” She said: “It is a sexual violation. It’s disgusting. The law needs to be changed, and we need to change.”

Ultimately, arrests were made within the next 12 months. Sentencing soon followed.

In October 2016, Ryan Collins, 36, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to 18 months under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in relation to the September 2014 photo leaks. In January 2017, Edward Majerczyk, 29, of Chicago, was handed nine months in federal prison. In addition, 32-year old Emilio Herrera, also of Chicago, got 16 months in prison after a plea deal.

According to the Hartford Courant, Garofano’s lawyer Richard Lynch said: “George is a good person who was taken advantage of by several hackers more sophisticated than himself. He made mistakes, admits his guilt, apologizes to the victims and seeks the leniency of the court.”

Garofano, in a court letter, said his actions were “not only illegal, but morally wrong.” He added: “I feel remorse for any that could have been affected by this on any scale, public or private.”

Last year, another series of photo leaks impacted celebrities. Victims included Emma Watson, Amanda Seyfried, Rose McGowan and Miley Cyrus. It was quickly dubbed Fappening 2.0.

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