George Bronk  (Source: The Sacramento Bee)

Email clients frequently offer personal security questions that users are asked to answer when they create the account. The questions allow anyone with the right answer to gain access to the account -- without remembering the password associated with the account.  (Source: Checking Email Live)
Man accused of exploiting security questions, forwarding nude pics to womens' "friends"

Do you send nude pictures of yourself or others via email?  Most of our readers are probably too savvy for such nonsense, but if you do, you might want to think twice about it.

George Bronk, a 23-year-old California native, has admitted to trolling Facebook personals looking for young women who posted their email addresses.  From there he began to monitor their wall posts and notes, in an effort to find answers to the security questions protecting their email accounts.  

Many email providers, including Hotmail and Gmail, offer these kinds of questions to help customers regain access if they've forgotten their password.  Most customers answer them truthfully, which can be exploited by malicious parties, as we pointed out in a recent blog.

In Mr. Bronk's case, once he gained access to the women's email accounts, he then typically scoured their email history looking for nude or seminude pics.  He then forwarded those pictures to all the women’s contacts.  He would also gain access to their Facebook accounts via the email-driven password reset feature.  He would then post nude pictures of them to their Facebook profiles.  

He would also post nude pictures of them on other sites.  And at least one woman he sent additional threats to, in order to obtain more explicit pictures.

Mr. Bronk, who resides in Citrus Heights, California, victimized dozens of women in the United States and Britain, according to the California attorney general's office.  He has plead guilty to seven felonies in state Superior Court, including computer intrusion, false impersonation and possession of child pornography.  

His defense attorney, Monica Lynch, is urging leniency pointing to Mr. Bronk's cooperativeness.  She says her client acted not out of malice, but out of immaturity, describing him in an Associate Press interview as a "23-year-old boy going on 15."  She argues, "He's accepted full responsibility. It's a tragic situation."

Prosecutors disagree.  They said that Mr. Bronk knew what he was doing and are seeking a six-year prison sentence on March 10 when the suspect returns to court for a sentencing evaluation.  At least one of the victims agrees.  In a statement to the Associated Press, she states that the incident felt like "virtual rape".

The suspect was caught after one of the victims contacted the Connecticut State Police.  Using computer records, they tracked the suspect to California.  From there the California Highway Patrol took over.  From there they obtained a search warrant and inspected Mr. Bronk's computer.  On it they found 172 e-mail files containing explicit photographs of women from 17 states, including Washington D.C. and Virginia, according to a court affidavit.  According to some reports, he may have exploited as many as 47 women.

Two of the women involved blame Mr. Bronk, but they also blame Facebook and unnamed email providers for failing to secure their privacy.  Mr. Bronk's attorney also blamed Facebook for not catching him in the act sooner.  Facebook and e-mail service providers have faced legal action stemming from victims of similar incidents in the past.  Facebook has been a favorite haunt for those looking to victimize others sexually.

"This week I got an iPhone. This weekend I got four chargers so I can keep it charged everywhere I go and a land line so I can actually make phone calls." -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

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