Hackerazzi are cybercriminals who hack into the email accounts of celebrities to access and exploit their private information. Hackerazzi derives from paparazzi, a term for photo journalists who follow celebrities.

A year-long FBI investigation into celebrity hackings, called Operation Hackerazzi, resulted in the indictment of Christopher Chaney of Jacksonville, Florida on charges of illegally accessing the accounts of more than 50 individuals in the entertainment industry, including Christina Aguilera, Scarlett Johansson and Mila Kunis.

Charges against Chaney included illegal wiretapping, aggravated identity theft, and accessing and damaging protected computers. Among the items exploited were nude photographs of Johansson that were subsequently widely circulated online.

Chaney allegedly gained access to victims’ Apple, Google and Yahoo email accounts, which yielded contact information for more celebrities. He is said to have used a forwarding feature to send himself copies of any messages sent from the accounts. That feature is not affected when a password is changed, so even if victims become suspicious and change their login information, the forwards continue.

Chaney is alleged to have monitored social media sites and other online sources for personal information about the victims that would yield clues about potential account passwords. That method was successfully used in 2005, when a hacker accessed information and photos on Paris Hilton’s phone by correctly guessing that her password was “tinkerbell,” the name of Hilton’s Chihuahua. Such passwords -- which are very easy to guess -- are known as weak passwords and are strongly discouraged by security experts.

 

See also: reputation management, strong password, social engineering, authentication, multifactor authentication (MFA)

 

Continue reading about hackerazzi:

> CNN reports on celebrity 

> Password protection checklist

> Guard against identity theft

This was last updated in October 2011
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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