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FBI arrests alleged celebrity e-mail hacker

Man allegedly compromised accounts using aliases and then had their new e-mails automatically forwarded to his account, officials say.

Scarlett Johansson is among the 50 or so alleged victims in an e-mail hacking case.
Scarlett Johansson is among the 50 or so alleged victims in an e-mail hacking case.

The FBI today arrested a Florida man accused of hacking into e-mail accounts of Scarlett Johansson, Christina Aguilera, and dozens of other celebrities, and releasing stolen photos of them to the Web.

Authorities arrested Christopher Chaney, 35, of Jacksonville, Fla., as part of an 11-month investigation officials dubbed "Operation Hackerazzi," according to a statement from the FBI in Los Angeles.

The 26-count indictment, unsealed yesterday, charges Chaney with unauthorized access of protected computers, wiretapping, identity theft, and damaging computers. He faces as much as 120 years in prison if convicted of all charges. Officials said they will likely request he be transferred to Los Angeles to face prosecution.

While officials said they had identified more than 50 victims, only five were identified by name: Johansson, Aguilera, Kuni, Simone Harouche, and Renee Olstead. Six other alleged victims were identified by initials: B.P., J.A., L.B., L.S., D.F., and B.G.

The FBI alleges that Chaney mined unnamed public sources for information about the victims and used aliases, including "trainreqsuckswhat" and "anonygrrl," to gain control of their e-mail accounts. It's not clear exactly how that was accomplished.

Chaney allegedly found additional victims from the address book on the compromised computers, used victim's identities to access computers, intercepted e-mails, and had e-mails that were sent to victims automatically forwarded to an account he controlled, according to the indictment. "This form of wiretapping allowed Chaney to continually receive victims' e-mails even after a password had been reset," the FBI said.

He also is accused of distributing some of the photos and other information from the compromised accounts to celebrity blog sites, and as a result, some of the material ended up on the Web, officials said. The FBI confirmed to CNET that an investigation was underway last month after nude photos of Johansson appeared on a celebrity news site.

While Johansson and other victims had photos and other information stolen, another celebrity reportedly had sensitive financial data exposed to the world. Someone posted hip hop artist P Diddy's credit card number, passport information, and phone numbers online, according to celebrity blog TMZ.

There have been other cases of celebrities getting accounts hacked, including Paris Hilton, whose Sidekick mobile phone was compromised and phone numbers of her celebrity contacts were posted to the Internet.