A new decade, a new kind of creepy crime:
A California man faces six years in prison for using personal information found on women’s Facebook profiles to take over their e-mail accounts, steal nude pictures of them and sometimes even blackmail them. One victim likened it to “virtual rape.”
George Samuel Bronk pleaded guilty in Sacramento Superior Court Thursday to seven felony charges, including computer intrusion, impersonation and possession of child pornography.
The charges stem from a nine-month period ending in September, during which Bronk hijacked the e-mail accounts of hundreds of women across 17 states and in England, the Sacramento Bee reported.
A press release from the office of Kamala Harris, California’s attorney general, says Bronk targeted his victims by searching Facebook for women who posted both their e-mail addresses and also personal information such as their favorite foods, their father’s middle names, their high-school mascots and their favorite colors.
Such details are routinely used in “identity challenges” when changes are made to online personal accounts. “Social engineering” scams, such as phishing scams, are designed to trick the victim into revealing this sort of information — but Bronk found it all right there on Facebook.
With it, Bronk could pose as a legitimate e-mail user, hit the “Forgot your password?” button, pass the identity challenge, change the password to one of his own and take over the e-mail account, locking out the victim.
And then the problems would begin.
Bronk, 23, searched hundreds of “sent mail” folders for any nude photographs or videos. If he found any, he’d often sending the most scandalous or pornographic pictures to the women’s contacts lists, or would contact the victims directly and threaten to make the pictures public unless they sent him even more revealing ones.
In some cases, he’d go back for seconds. After he’d taken over an e-mail account, he’d e-mail Facebook from it and tell the company he’d forgotten the victim’s Facebook password — and then take over the woman’s Facebook account as well.
In October, when police confiscated Bronk’s computer and arrested him, they found more than 170 files of explicit photographs stolen from e-mail accounts he had hijacked.
Here’s the part I *really* don’t get: Why do people keep nude and/or explicit pictures of themselves on web-based servers? Are they trying to get in trouble? I don’t know about you, but my sympathy switch is broken. If you’re going to post explicit pictures of yourself online, you deserve to be embarrassed publicly.by