Jailed Facebook hack Brit targeted Justin Bieber’s girlfriend
A British man jailed for a year after hacking into a private Facebook account targeted Justin Bieber’s actress-turned-singer girlfriend, it has emerged.
Gareth Crosskey, 21, of Lancing in West Sussex, was sentenced to 12 months behind bars by London’s Southwark Crown Court last week.
Crosskey had pleaded guilty to two computer crime offences relating to hacking into the private Facebook account of a then unnamed US victim. The breach was reported to the FBI who turned over the investigation to Scotland Yard’s Police Central e-Crime Unit after tracing the hack to the UK.
The target was Selena Gomez, the teenaged girlfriend of gerbil-faced pop icon Justin Bieber, the PA confirmed. Crosskey threatened to publish personal Facebook messages sent between between the lovestruck pair after gaining control of the actress’s profile.
The takeover of the account was carried out after Crosskey successfully posed as her step-father, tricking Facebook into granting him illicit access to Gomez’s account in the process. Brian Teefey, Gomez’s step-father and manager, was the administrator of her account.
Crosskey set up an email account “extremely similar to that of Selena Gomez’s administrators account details” in order to pull off the hack, according to prosecutor Corrine Bramwell, before requesting a password reset.
Bramwell said Crosskey (known online as Pkinjor or prokill) posted a video on YouTube proving he had illicit access to the account before boasting about the breakin of an underground forum, hackersforum.net, where he sought advice on what to do with the compromised account.
After taking control of Gomez’s account, Crosskey claimed to have downloaded copies of private emails. He subsequently touted these messages to celebrity magazines OK and Hollywood Life before approaching Teefey and threatening to release the juicy details.
“Her personal email shows what her fans might want to see. I’ve made a copy of every email between Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez and Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato. I think the paparazzi will have a field day,” Crosskey told Teefey.
Justin Bieber sucks
In addition, a message saying “Justin Bieber Sucks” was posted on Gomez’s Facebook fan page. Prosecutors allege that Crosskey was responsible for posting the message, which generated floods of hate mail from angry Bieber fans.
At the time of the hack in January 2011, the relationship between Gomez and Bieber was not publicly known.
Lawyers for Crosskey claimed he carried out the hack in order to expose Facebook’s security shortcomings, rather than as a prelude to extortion. Crosskey, who was working at burger chain McDonalds at the time of the escapade before starting a college course designing computer games, launched the attack after his own Facebook account was hacked.
Gareth Morgan, defending, said: “He did this after his own account was manipulated and hacked and, in order to demonstrate to the Facebook authorities the ease with which he was able to access Facebook accounts, he accessed through Mr Teefey’s email Selena Gomez’s account.”
Gomez was selected only because she was a celebrity, more or less at random, according to Morgan, who added that his client did not benefit financially from his wrongdoing.
These arguments failed to cut much ice when it came to sentencing. Judge John Price said: “You are clever with a computer and you hacked into the private part of somebody’s Facebook account – that somebody was a singer, a celebrity called Selena Gomez.”
“She had a Facebook account on which she has 6 million friends,” he add.
“They have permission to get into part of the account and you hacked into a private part by getting the private email password. You did that by posing as Brian Teefey, her step-father and manager and you did that, you said, to show Mark Zuckerberg that his security was inadequate.”
“People deserve privacy and should not their private correspondence by email made public. People are entitles to privacy even those who seek publicity,” the judge concluded. ®