A 23-year-old California man is in jail accused of breaking into more than 170 e-mail accounts of women and stealing explicit photos of them, as well as sending the photos to their e-mail contacts and posting them on their Facebook pages.
George Samuel Bronk, an unemployed 23-year-old from Citrus Heights, Calif., is believed to have targeted the victims by cruising women's Facebook pages and using information gleaned off the social network to trick different Web-based e-mail accounts into allowing him to change passwords linked to the women's accounts, Sergeant Kelly Dixon of the California Highway Patrol's Computer Crimes unit told CNET today.
Once inside their e-mail accounts, Bronk allegedly searched the sent mail folders for nude or semi-nude photographs and videos, which he allegedly then distributed via their e-mail and Facebook accounts, the computer crimes department said. Officials found the images and videos, along with more than 1,000 images and 50 videos of child pornography, on Bronk's computer, officials said.
His computer also allegedly contained a list of 3,200 e-mail profiles, but it is unclear whether they had all been breached and whether all belonged to women.
Bronk is accused of threatening to release photos of one victim more widely unless he received additional explicit photos of her. The victim, allegedly communicating with Bronk in an online chat, complied, according to officials.
Authorities traced the e-mail breach of the first reported victim, a Connecticut woman, and the breach of her Facebook account back to the Internet Protocol address of Bronk's computer, the CHP said.
Bronk was arrested on Friday and arraigned in Sacramento County Court yesterday. He is being held on $500,000 bond and faces 30 felony counts of computer intrusion, identity theft, child pornography, and extortion, according Dixon.
"People should limit the amount of information they put online," he said. "For example, the high school you went to can be a security question" for password recovery on e-mail accounts.
It can be very easy to find information on the Web to correctly answer such security questions. This technique was used to break into Sarah Palin's Yahoo e-mail account in 2008, as well as to access a Twitter employee's Yahoo e-mail account last year, which then led to exposure of sensitive Twitter corporate information via Google Docs.