In a cautionary tale for users of social-networking sites, a California man has admitted using personal information he gleaned from Facebook to hack into women's e-mail accounts, then send nude pictures of them to everyone in their address book.
The California attorney general's office said Friday that George Bronk, 23, commandeered the e-mail accounts of dozens of women in the United States and England. He then scanned the women's "sent" folders for nude and seminude photos and videos, and forwarded any he found to all the women's contacts, prosecutors said.
Bronk coerced one woman into sending him more explicit photographs by threatening to distribute the pictures he already had. One victim told authorities the intrusion felt like "virtual rape."
Bronk, who lives in the Sacramento suburb of Citrus Heights, pleaded guilty Thursday to seven felonies in Sacramento County Superior Court, including computer intrusion, false impersonation and possession of child pornography.
Prosecutors are seeking a six-year prison term when Bronk returns for a sentencing evaluation March 10.
His attorney, Monica Lynch of Roseville, called her client a "23-year-old boy going on 15."
"He's accepted full responsibility. It's a tragic situation," she said.
Lynch said she will argue for less than a six-year sentence.
Prosecutors said Bronk would scan women's Facebook accounts looking for those who posted their e-mail addresses. He would then study their Facebook postings to learn the answers to common security questions like their favorite color or father's middle name.
He contacted the women's e-mail providers and used the information to gain control of their accounts. He also often gained control of their Facebook accounts by hijacking their passwords, then posted compromising photographs on their Facebook pages and other Internet sites.
"This case highlights the fact that anyone with an e-mail account is vulnerable to identity theft," Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement announcing Bronk's guilty plea.
Investigators found 172 e-mail files containing explicit photographs of women when they searched Bronk's computer in September, according to a court affidavit. They were able to track his victims to England, Washington, D.C., and 17 states.
"He is a sick individual," said Danielle Piscak, 22, of Parkland, Wash., one of Bronk's victims.
Piscak said one of her friends alerted her that nude photographs she had sent privately to her husband were posted on her Facebook page last fall. Facebook removed the photos the next day.
"I have a network of like 1,500 people, so they all saw my pictures. So my graduating class of 2007 saw that. I'm in the military, so all my army friends saw that," Piscak said. She had to explain the embarrassing situation to her family and husband, from whom she is separated.
Piscak used a different e-mail account to contact the person who had hacked her page.
"I said, 'Why are you doing this?' and he said, 'Because it's funny,' " Piscak said in a telephone interview.