Phone hacker pleads guilty

Ex-NASA con­trac­tor broke into women’s accounts, threat­ened to leak nude pho­tos.

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Alene Tchekm­e­dyian alene.tchekm­e­dyian@la­times.com

Richard Gre­gory Bauer didn’t hide his iden­tity when he gath­ered in­for­ma­tion to hack into the email and so­cial me­dia accounts of his fe­male friends, fam­ily mem­bers and co-work­ers.

In some cases, the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice said, he told them via Face­book that he was work­ing on a class pro­ject and posed a series of ques­tions, such as the name of their first pet or the city where their par­ents met — typical ques­tions used to re­set on­line pass­words.

In oth­ers, he con­vinced the women that he needed help test­ing soft­ware but in­stead had them in­stall mal­ware that gave him unau­tho­rized ac­cess to their com­put­ers.

Bauer, 28, then scoured their accounts for nude pho­to­graphs. Once he col­lected his stash — and even if he found noth­ing — he sent the women anony­mous mes­sages threat­en­ing to dis­trib­ute the pho­to­graphs un­less they sent him more ex­plicit pic­tures.

Now the for­mer NASA con­trac­tor is fac­ing sev­eral years in fed­eral pri­son.

Bauer pleaded guilty Thurs­day to three charges: stalk­ing, com­puter hack­ing and ag­gra­vated iden­tity theft, the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice said. He is sched­uled to be sen­tenced in De­cem­ber.

Stephen Kahn, an at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing Bauer, said his client did not pub­lish any of the pho­tos he found and feels re­morse for his ac­tions. There were cir­cum­stances in Bauer’s life that ex­plain his be­hav­ior, but Kahn would not elab­o­rate un­til the sen­tenc­ing hear­ing, he said.

Ac­cord­ing to the plea agree­ment Bauer reached with pros­e­cu­tors, he be­gan hack­ing oth­ers’ accounts early in 2015 and con­tin­ued un­til this year.

With the an­swers to the per­sonal ques­tions that he said were for a “hu­man so­ci­eties class,” Bauer re­set pass­words, pri­mar­ily on cloud-based iPhone back­ups, to ac­cess pho­tos, videos and doc­u­ments with pass­words for other accounts. He was able to com­pro­mise at least 15 back­ups that way.

In one case from Jan­uary, he sent a woman an email and at­tached a top­less selfie of her. “I have more,” he wrote, ac­cord­ing to the plea agree­ment. “If you don’t want them pub­lic I sug­gest you re­spond to this. This is not a joke.”

He then de­manded four more pho­tos of her daily, the agree­ment said. “If you do this, those pic­tures will not go pub­lic. What is your an­swer?” he wrote.

Bauer, who lives in MidWil­shire, ad­mit­ted that he sent the mes­sages, the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice said.

Bauer knew all of the women — friends or ac­quain­tances from high school and col­lege, co-work­ers and fam­ily mem­bers. Many times, his threats showed that he knew per­sonal de­tails about them.

‘If you do this, those pic­tures will not go pub­lic. What is your an­swer?’ — Richard Bauer, in a mes­sage threat­en­ing to re­lease nude pho­tos un­less the woman sent him more, ac­cord­ing to a plea agree­ment

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