Former IT Employee of Transcontinental Railroad Sentenced to Prison for Damaging Ex-Employer’s Computer Network
A former IT employee for the Canadian Pacific Railway was sentenced today to one year and one day in prison for causing intentional damage to critical portions of Canadian Pacific’s computer network.
Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Gregory G. Brooker of the District of Minnesota and Special Agent in Charge Richard T. Thornton of the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office made the announcement.
Christopher Victor Grupe, 46, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Patrick J. Schiltz of the District of Minnesota. Grupe was convicted of one count of intentional damage to a protected computer on Oct. 6, 2017, following a five-day jury trial in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
As proven through evidence presented at the trial, from September 2013 until December 2015, Grupe was employed as an IT professional by Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), a transcontinental railroad company headquartered in Alberta, Canada, with U.S. headquarters in Minneapolis. On Dec. 15, 2015, following a 12-day suspension, Grupe was notified by CPR management that he was going to be fired due to insubordination. However, at his request, Grupe was instead allowed to resign, effective that same day. In his resignation letter, Grupe indicated that he would return all company property, including his laptop, remote access device, and access badges, to the CPR office.
The evidence presented at the trial proved that on Dec. 17, 2015, before returning his laptop and remote access device, Grupe used both to gain access to the CPR computer network’s core “switches” – high-powered computers through which critical data in the CPR network flowed. Once inside, Grupe strategically deleted files, removed administrative-level accounts, and changed passwords on the remaining administrative-level accounts, thereby locking CPR out of these network switches. Grupe then attempted to conceal his activity by wiping the laptop’s hard drive before returning it to CPR.
The evidence presented further showed that on Jan. 6, 2016, while trying to address a networking problem, the CPR network staff discovered that they were unable to access the main network switches. After CPR IT staff was able to regain access to the switches through a risky, but successful, rebooting procedure, they discovered evidence in logging data stored in the memory of the switches connecting the damage to Grupe. CPR hired an outside computer security company to identify the source and scope of the intrusion as well as conduct an incident analysis, which also connected the damage to Grupe.
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI, with assistance from the Digital Forensic Laboratory of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.
Trial Attorney Aaron R. Cooper of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy C. Rank of the District of Minnesota are prosecuting the case.