A man in Los Angeles Country plead guilty to stealing over 620,000 photographs and videos from thousands of iCloud Photos accounts. Hao Ku Chi of La Puente, California had stolen nude images, some of which ended up being posted on porn websites.
Hao Ku Chi agreed to plead guilty to a total of four felonies, related to intrusions into thousands of iCloud accounts. The stolen images were shared with co-conspirators.
The man attempted to trick victims into handing over their Apple IDs and passwords by impersonating a member of Apple’s support staff in emails, says The Los Angeles Times. At least 306 victims across the United States were fooled.
Chi performed around 200 of the hacks at the direction of others, as he billed himself in forums as someone who could gain access to iCloud accounts under the name “icloudripper4you.”
Chi used a duo of Gmail addresses, including “applebackupicloud” and “backupagenticloud.” The accounts contained more than 500,000 emails, complete with 4,700 user IDs and passwords.
Chi acknowledged in court papers that he and his unnamed co-conspirators used a foreign encrypted email service to communicate with each other anonymously. When they came across nude photos and videos stored in victims’ iCloud accounts, they called them “wins,” which they collected and shared with one another.
Chi’s activity was first discovered back in March 2018, after a company that specializes in removing celebrity photographs from adult websites advised an unknown public figure of the presence of their images. The photos were stored on an iPhone and backed up to iCloud, but were not distributed.
A resulting police investigation showed that a log-in to the account had been made from Chi’s home. A resulting search warrant on May 19 resulted in the collection of items acquired by Chi from various online storage services.
Chi plead guilty on August 5 to one count of conspiracy and three counts of gaining unauthorized access to a protected computer. He faces up to five years in prison for each count.
Chi in a brief phone interview said he was worried the publication of his crimes would “ruin my whole life,” claiming “I’m remorseful for what I did, but I have a family.”
This isn’t the first time nude images have been accessed by bad actors. In 2016, a man was charged with an elaborate phishing scheme that resulted in hacks against iCloud and Google online storage accounts.