A 23-year-old hacker from the Bahamas was arrested after he managed to access personal data belonging to certain celebrities, including scripts for unreleased movies, sex tapes and other data.
Alonzo Knowles contacted a radio host earlier this month, The New York Times says, promising to turn in scripts for the first six episodes of a coming season of a hit television drama in exchange for money.
Knowles also offered to sell scripts for three comedy scripts, a hip-hop biopic, a television show, as well as Social Security numbers for actors and professional athletes and sex tapes of celebrities.
“This is just a sample of things I can get,” Knowles wrote, describing a sex tape he sent to a potential buyer that turned out to be an undercover investigator. “I have more stuff along these lines and can get more if you’re interested.”
According to federal charges against Knowles, the hacker gained access to personal data belonging to at least 130 celebrities. None of the victims were named in the complaint.
“This case has all of the elements of the kind of blockbuster script the defendant, Alonzo Knowles, is alleged to have stolen: hacks into celebrities’ private emails, identity theft, and attempts to sell victims’ information to the highest bidder,” United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara said. “Unfortunately, these circumstances are all too real.”
What Knowles did was to target the friends of celebrities first, rather than going directly after a famous person. After finding personal information about celebrities from their friends’ accounts, Knowles texted them fake messages that seemed as if their account had been hacked. Some wrote back with their password, which gave Knowles a way into their computers, where he placed a virus.
Knowles then tried to sell the stolen data, claiming it would be “really profitable” for the buyer. He claimed that the radio host he first offered scripts to could turn them into a book and make $2 million off the sales. He also obtained 30 unreleased tracks of a future album of a “very popular A-list celebrity.”
The radio host contacted the producer of the drama series whose scripts had been stolen, at which point the Department Homeland Security started investigating the matter.
Knowles faces five years in prison for each charge. The full complaint against Knowles is available at the source link.