Celebrity hacker pleads guilty to Scarlett Johansson e-mail hack

"Operation Hackerazzi" comes to a close as the hacker most known for sending private nude photos of Scarlett Johansson to gossip Web sites pleads guilty.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read

Christopher Chaney entered guilty pleas to nine felony counts in federal court today, admitting that he hacked into dozens of celebrities' e-mail accounts, including those of Mila Kunis and Scarlett Johansson, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"Today's guilty pleas shine a bright light on the dark underworld of computer hacking," said U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr., whose office prosecuted the case, according to the Los Angeles Times. "This case demonstrates that everyone, even public figures, should take precautions to shield their personal information from the hackers that inhabit that dark underworld."

Chaney, 35 of Jacksonville, Fla., faces a maximum of 60 years in federal prison when his sentence is announced in July. He was nabbed last October following an 11-month investigation that federal officials named "Operation Hackerazzi."

Originally he was charged with a 26-count indictment that accused Chaney of unauthorized access of protected computers, wiretapping, identity theft, and damaging computers. While more than 50 victims from the entertainment industry were connected with the case, only five people were identified by name: Johansson, Kunis, Christina Aguilera, Simone Harouche, and Renee Olstead.

After the bust Chaney initially pled not guilty, but, according to TMZ, he struck a plea deal with the prosecutors and ended up agreeing to nine counts, including identity theft, wiretapping, and unauthorized access of protected computers. He also agreed to surrender his computers, external drives, and cell phone.

Over the course of the federal hearing, Chaney admitted to hacking into celebrity accounts, obtaining private e-mails and confidential documents, publicizing their personal information, and sending photos to two celebrity Web sites. Some of the photos of Johansson were nude photos she took privately to send to her then-husband Ryan Reynolds, according to The Guardian.

Chaney gained access to the accounts by using the "Forgot your password?" feature in their e-mail addresses, according to the Los Angeles Times. He then would reset the passwords by answering security questions from public information he found by searching the Web. According to the plea agreement, Chaney received thousands of e-mails from the victims' accounts.