The hacker named Alonzo Knowles contacted a famous radio host to sell the stolen scripts for the first six episodes of a hit television drama currently being filmed.
The unnamed host informed about it to the Homeland Security that cooked up a sting operation and had the radio host put the hacker in touch with an undercover investigator posing as an interested buyer.
Cracking the Code: Learn How Cyber Attackers Exploit Human Psychology
Ever wondered why social engineering is so effective? Dive deep into the psychology of cyber attackers in our upcoming webinar.Join Now
Among the items he offered to sell were:
- Scripts for three comedy films
- A hip-hop biopic
- Another television show
- Social Security numbers for actors and professional athletes
- Emails and phone numbers of at least 130 celebrities
- Tapes of celebrities
The hacker was arrested on Monday in Manhattan, a day after arriving from the Bahamas to sell the agent 15 movie and TV shows scripts and the Social Security Numbers (SSNs) of a movie actress and two athletes for $80,000.
Besides this, Knowles also showed the agent a tape, saying the tape is just a "sample of things [he] can get," rather he had "more stuff along these [items] and can get more" if the undercover agent was interested.
How Did the Hacker Access Celebs Email Accounts?
The incident was neither linked to the stolen celebrity photos leaked late last year nor Sony Pictures hack, as the court document posted by NYT indicated that Knowles allegedly hacked into email accounts of celebrities by sending them a virus that allowed him to access their sensitive data.
Apart from gaining access to data via a virus, Knowles also sent fake automated text messages to the celebrities, making it look like their account had been hacked and asking for their passwords to secure their account.
Unfortunately, some of the celebrities replied with their passwords.
A federal criminal complaint noted his victims included movie and TV actors, a famous singer-songwriter, a casting director, and a hip-hop artist, but he did not identify the identity of celebrities, movies or TV shows involved.
Knowles was held without bail after an appearance Tuesday in Manhattan federal court on criminal copyright infringement and identity theft charges, which both have a maximum jail sentence of five years.