The hackers behind the CelebGate photo leak have finally been brought to justice

'In committing this offence, Mr Garofano acted in complete and utter disregard for the impact on his victims’ lives.'

celebgate photo hack
(Image credit: Chelsea Lauren/REX/Shutterstock)

'In committing this offence, Mr Garofano acted in complete and utter disregard for the impact on his victims’ lives.'

Back in 2014, a major event happened that opened the floodgates on a discussion that was long overdue - namely, the hacking of personal accounts and eventual distribution of celebrity nudes. You might remember that big names were hit including Kirsten Dunst, Kate Upton and Jennifer Lawrence, the latter of whom became a very fierce advocate for punishing those who participate in revenge porn. Well four years on, we finally have a conclusion to the case: all four hackers have finally been punished for their crime.

George Garafano, one of four hackers involved in the sex crime, was charged with eight months in prison. Following that, the judge ruled that he would be released under supervision for three years after that and also would have to perform 60 hours of community service according to NBC.

According to the BBC, Garafano pretended to be an Apple staff member and sent out fake security emails to a number of celebrities and Connecticut civilians to access their usernames and passwords. After that, he then hacked their Apple iCloud accounts and was able to access all of their photographs - particularly their nude pictures in the case of many female celebrities.

celebgate photo hack

Carl Timpone/BFA/REX/Shutterstock
(Image credit: Carl Timpone/BFA/REX/Shutterstock)

‘Mr Garofano's offence was a serious one. He illegally hacked into his victims' online accounts, invaded their privacy, and stole their personal information, including private and intimate photos,’ the prosecution wrote, via The Guardian. 'He did not engage in this conduct on just one occasion. He engaged in this conduct 240 times over the course of 18 months.’

‘Not only did Mr Garofano keep for himself the photographs he stole, he disseminated them to other individuals. He may have also sold them to others to earn ‘extra income’. In committing this offence, Mr Garofano acted in complete and utter disregard for the impact on his victims’ lives,’ they continued.

Garofano was one of four hackers at the centre of the FBI’s ‘celebgate’ investigation, however he is the last to be charged with a punishment. These included Ryan Collins in 2016 (18 months in prison plus a USD$3000 fine), Edward Majerczyk (nine months in prison and $5700 in restitution fees) and Emilio Herrera who took an undisclosed plea deal last October.

celebgate photo hack

David Buchan/REX/Shutterstock
(Image credit: David Buchan/REX/Shutterstock)

The photo leak - which was coined grossly by some on the internet as ‘The Fappening’ - occurred in 2014 and affected a number of high profile celebrities. While it was obviously a horrific situation, it also kick-started a much needed debate around stronger punishment for those who engage in revenge porn. (Sadly though, there were a number of people who still fell into the problematic camp of blaming the victims for taking the photos in the first place.)

Jennifer said at the time per The Independent, ‘I feel like I got gang-banged by the f***ing planet - like, there’s not one person in the world that is not capable of seeing these intimate photos of me. You can just be at a barbecue and somebody can just pull them up on their phone. That was a really impossible thing to process.’

celebgate photo hack

Yvonne Tnt/BFA/REX/Shutterstock (9724813z)
(Image credit: Yvonne Tnt/BFA/REX/Shutterstock)

‘A lot of women were affected, and a lot of them reached out to me about suing Apple or suing [others] - and none of that was going to really bring me peace, none of that was gonna bring my nude body back to me and [former boyfriend] Nic [Hoult], the person that they were intended for,’ she said. ‘It was not going to bring any of that back.’

Although the hackers have been brought to justice, for many of those affected - they're going to be followed by the consequences of their crime for the rest of their life. The hackers' sentences may come to an end, but nothing ever dies on the internet and their victims have to go on knowing that people can access images of their naked bodies whenever they want - without their consent.

We don't know, but it feels like there needs to be a stronger punishment for that.

Megan C. Hills

Megan is a freelance journalist who covers entertainment and all things lifestyle, with a particular passion for fashion, beauty, travel and Keanu Reeves stories. She has previously worked on staff for titles including Marie Claire UK, CNN Style and The Evening Standard and has written for titles such as Bustle UK, Wallpaper*, Forbes and Hong Kong Tatler. She splits her time between London and her hometown Hong Kong, where she currently lives with the love of her life - an elderly dog named Poppy - and her husband.