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

For 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

(View all)
Avatar
14 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)
Avatar
14 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)
Avatar
14 months ago
Since when was it called Celebgate? I'm told the torrent file was called "The Fappening".
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
14 months ago
What a way to treat a national treasure.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
14 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)
Avatar
14 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)

Top Stories

Seemingly Unreleased Version of Logic Pro X With Live Loops Appears on Apple's Education Site [Updated]

Sunday March 29, 2020 7:23 am PDT by Hartley Charlton
Update: Apple has replaced the Logic Pro X image with an older version. Original story follows. A seemingly unreleased version of Logic Pro X has appeared on Apple's education site, as spotted by a Reddit user. The image from Apple's education products page shows a 16-inch MacBook Pro running Logic Pro X, but with a familiar interface that looks extremely similar to GarageBand's Live Loops ...

Zoom Updates iOS App to Stop Sending Data to Facebook

Friday March 27, 2020 5:35 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Zoom, a video conferencing app that many people are using at the current time to keep in touch with coworkers while working from home, was sending data to Facebook without disclosing the data sharing to customers. As of today, Zoom has updated its iOS app to remove the SDK that was providing data to Facebook through the Login with Facebook feature, according to Motherboard, the site that...

Apple Suppliers Worried About iPhone Demand, Production Ramp-Up for New iPhones Reportedly Postponed

Friday March 27, 2020 5:56 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Most of the factories in China that supply devices and components to Apple are back to churning out products, but Apple suppliers are said to be worried about how much demand there will be for the current iPhone models and the new iPhones expected in the fall. According to Reuters, a senior official at one of Apple's major supply companies said that orders for quarter ending in March are...

2020 iPad Pro Teardown Provides Closer Look at LiDAR Scanner and Confirms Incremental Update

Saturday March 28, 2020 9:56 am PDT by Hartley Charlton
iFixit today shared a video teardown of the new iPad Pro, which Apple unveiled earlier this month. iFixit found that most of the internals of the 2020 iPad Pro are the same as the 2018 model, confirming that the device is a relatively incremental update. The most notable new feature seen inside the new iPad Pro was the LiDAR scanner, which measures the distance to surrounding objects up...

Apple Watch Series 6 Could Feature Touch ID Fingerprint Sensor, Pulse Oximetry and Sleep Tracking Support

Friday March 27, 2020 11:28 am PDT by Juli Clover
The upcoming Apple Watch Series 6 set to be released this fall could include a Touch ID fingerprint sensor built into the crown of the device, according to Israeli site The Verifier, which cites "senior sources" who have worked with its staff for a "number of years" as the source of the rumor. It's not clear how the alleged Touch ID fingerprint sensor would be implemented, as the Digital...

Bloomberg: Apple's 5G iPhone Still on Schedule for Fall Launch, But Future Products Could Be Delayed

Monday March 30, 2020 2:40 am PDT by Tim Hardwick
Apple's 5G iPhone is still on track to launch within the company's typical annual fall release schedule, according to a new Bloomberg report on filed on Monday. Signs are that Apple's Chinese-centric manufacturing -- of which Hon Hai is the linchpin -- is slowly getting back on track. The next iPhones with 5G wireless capabilities remain on schedule to launch in the fall, partly because mass...

Kuo: Apple to Launch Several Macs With Arm-Based Processors in 2021, USB4 Support Coming to Macs in 2022

Thursday March 26, 2020 8:19 pm PDT by Joe Rossignol
Apple plans to launch several Mac notebooks and desktop computers with its own custom designed Arm-based processors in 2021, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a research note obtained by MacRumors. Kuo believes that Arm-based processors will significantly enhance the competitive advantage of the Mac lineup, allow Apple to refresh its Mac models without relying on Intel's processor roadmap,...

Top Stories: Hands-On With 2020 iPad Pro and MacBook Air, iOS and iPadOS 13.4 Released, iPhone 12 Delay?

Saturday March 28, 2020 6:00 am PDT by MacRumors Staff
After last week's flurry of product launches, Apple's new iPad Pro and MacBook Air have started to make their way into consumers' hands, and we've gone hands-on with both of them this week. Apple this week also released iOS and iPadOS 13.4 (as well as macOS, watchOS, and tvOS updates) with a number of new features and improvements. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. ...

Deals: Huge Refurbished iPhone Sale Discounts iPhone 7, 8, X, XR, and XS (From $120)

Friday March 27, 2020 5:47 am PDT by Mitchel Broussard
Woot is back today with a big sale on refurbished iPhones, including markdowns on the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Woot. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. As with every Woot purchase, those...

Apple Releases ProRes RAW Beta for Windows

Monday March 30, 2020 9:33 am PDT by Juli Clover
Apple today released ProRes RAW for Windows in a beta capacity (via Mark Gurman), with the software designed to allow ProRes RAW and ProRes RAW HQ video files to be watched in compatible applications on Windows machines. According to Apple, the software will let the files be played within several Adobe apps: Adobe After Effects (Beta) Adobe Media Encocder (Beta) Adobe Premiere...