Virginia Teacher Sentenced to 34 Months in Prison for 2014 Celebrity iCloud Hack

iCloud AltFor his role in the 2014 iCloud hacks that saw many celebrity photos illicitly shared on the internet, former high school teacher Christopher Brannan has been sentenced to 34 months in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia (via AppleInsider).

Brannan was charged with unauthorized access to a protected computer and aggravated identity theft. Court documents say that he accessed the ‌iCloud‌, Yahoo, Facebook, and email accounts of more than 200 victims, both celebrities and non-celebrities.

He was able to obtain full ‌iCloud‌ backups, photographs, and other information using phishing email accounts that were designed to look like legitimate emails from Apple. He also hacked email accounts by answering security questions using data found on victims' Facebook accounts.

After obtaining Apple account information, Brannan would search for "sensitive and private photographs and videos, including nude photographs."

Brannan is one of multiple people who were found accessing and distributing celebrity photos in the 2014 attack. Ryan Collins, Edward Majerczyk, and Emilio Herrera, and George Garafano have previously been sentenced to prison terms ranging from eight months to 18 months.

When hundreds of nude celebrity photos began leaking on the internet in 2014 as part of what's now known as the "Celebgate" attack, there was initial speculation that ‌iCloud‌ had been hacked.

Following an investigation, however, Apple found that the accounts in question were compromised by weak passwords and skilled phishing attempts.

Apple has since implemented multiple changes to ‌iCloud‌ security, adding two-factor authentication to iCloud.com, introducing email alerts when an ‌iCloud‌ account is accessed either on the web or on another device, and requiring app-specific passwords for third-party apps that access ‌iCloud‌.

Unfortunately, the kind of phishing emails that led to the 2014 celebrity leak are still widely used today, and phishing scammers have only gotten better at what they do.

To thwart phishing attempts, Apple maintains a support page with information on how to avoid fake support calls, phishing emails, and other scam techniques that malicious individuals employ to extract information from Apple users.

Those concerned about being the victim of a phishing attack should take measures to stay safe, including using two-factor authentication, getting a password manager like 1Password and using a unique password for each and every site, and avoiding suspicious phone calls and emails, even if they look like they come from Apple.

Top Rated Comments

ipedro Avatar
60 months ago
It was not a hack. You should know better, this is a tech website. We have a hard enough time correcting the misconception that iCloud was hacked (it wasn’t), we don’t need Macrumors reinforcing it.

This was social engineering, phishing celebrities into giving up their passwords voluntarily.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
zorinlynx Avatar
60 months ago
Ah, yes. The “Fappening”!
I know, right? I'm not sure why the post called it "Celebgate". I've never heard it called that! It's always been "The Fappening".
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MagicBoy Avatar
60 months ago
Since when was it called Celebgate? I'm told the torrent file was called "The Fappening".
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
johnalan Avatar
60 months ago
What a way to treat a national treasure.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Fortimir Avatar
60 months ago
"...as part of what's now known as the "Celebgate" attack."

Stop trying to make "Celebgate" happen. It's not going to happen.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JimmyHook Avatar
60 months ago
There has never been a hack of iCloud period. The law requires any hacks be reported, none have, therefore iCloud is still the most secure cloud service in existence
[doublepost=1551468630][/doublepost]
If they're storing passwords correctly, how would they know that?
By asking the account owners during an investigation is the most likely answer
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

BMW Logo iPhone 15 Pro

Warning: BMW Wireless Charging May Break iPhone 15's Apple Pay Chip

Sunday October 1, 2023 6:14 am PDT by
If you have an iPhone 15 and drive a BMW, it might be best to avoid charging the device with the vehicle's wireless charging pad for now. Over the past week, some BMW owners have complained that their iPhone 15's NFC chip no longer works after charging the device with their vehicle's wireless charging pad, according to comments shared on the MacRumors Forums and X, formerly known as Twitter. ...
Multi Display CarPlay 1

All-New Apple CarPlay Launching Later This Year With These 5 New Features

Friday September 29, 2023 11:29 am PDT by
At WWDC 2022 last year, Apple previewed the next generation of CarPlay, promising deeper integration with vehicle functions like A/C and FM radio, support for multiple displays across the dashboard, personalization options, and more. Apple said the first vehicles with support for the next-generation CarPlay experience would be announced in late 2023, but it has still not shared any additional...
Apple Watch Edition Gold 2015

Original Apple Watch is Now Obsolete, Including $17,000 Gold Model

Monday October 2, 2023 9:15 am PDT by
All first-generation Apple Watch models released in 2015 were added to Apple's obsolete products list on September 30, according to an internal memo obtained by MacRumors. As a result, these outdated "Series 0" watches are no longer eligible for repairs or other service at Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Service Provider locations. The list of obsolete models includes the first-generation...
iPhone 15 Pro lineup

Apple to Address iPhone 15 Pro Overheating Issue With iOS 17 Update

Saturday September 30, 2023 9:28 am PDT by
Apple plans to release an iOS 17 update to address a bug that may contribute to the reported iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max overheating issue, according to a statement the company shared today with MacRumors and Forbes reporter David Phelan. Apple also says some recent updates to third-party apps have overloaded the system and contributed to the overheating issue. The report notes that...
Apple Logo Spotlight

Mac Trade-In Changes May Indicate New Model to Launch This Month

Tuesday October 3, 2023 6:30 am PDT by
Apple may be proceeding with plans to release a new Mac model this month, according to potentially related information obtained by MacRumors. Details pertaining to imminent changes to Mac trade-ins provided to MacRumors by a verified source suggest that Apple will likely begin accepting new models for trade-in this month. Similar changes in June coincided with WWDC, when Apple began accepting...
iphone se 4 modified flag edges

iPhone SE 4 Details: Action Button, USB-C Port, Face ID, and More

Wednesday September 27, 2023 1:34 pm PDT by
Significant changes are expected to arrive with Apple's fourth-generation iPhone SE, in terms of both design and hardware, MacRumors has learned. The iPhone SE 4, known internally under the codename Ghost, is expected to receive a new design derived almost entirely from the base model iPhone 14. According to our sources, the iPhone SE 4 will use a modified version of the iPhone 14 chassis...