Oceanside Man Pleads Guilty to Staging Online Attacks against Computer System Operated by His Former Employer
LOS ANGELES – An Oceanside man has pleaded guilty to launching repeated online attacks against a computer system operated by his former employer, a Rancho Dominguez-based manufacturer of precision laser and mechanical drilling equipment.
Conrad Pearson, 64, pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of unauthorized damage to a protected computer.
When he pleaded guilty on Wednesday, Pearson admitted that soon after he stopped working for Excellon Automation, he began transmitting “attack scripts” to Excellon’s website. “The ‘attack scripts’ constituted automated actions against Excellon's website, and included automatically downloading information from the Excellon website and automatically sending commands to the Partlink application of the website,” according to a factual statement filed this morning. The Partlink application allowed customers to check inventory of Excellon products.
The attacks on Excellon’s computer system, which were committed on a regular basis over the course of 10 months in 2009 and 2010, “caused the Excellon server to either cease functioning or to become inordinately slow,” according to the court document.
“Computer hacking causes significant economic damage to local businesses and therefore threatens the economic vitality of our entire region,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This defendant used his computer expertise and his knowledge of his former employer’s business to severely disrupt the company’s operations. The victim in this case suffered harm and wasted months fighting the defendant’s attacks on its website. This case illustrates why the prosecution of those who violate cyber security laws remains a top priority for my office.”
Pearson also admitted in court today that, in an attempt to hide his Internet address, he used The Onion Router (TOR) network, which helps conceal the identity of a user by routing them through a distributed network of relays all around the world.
Pearson admitted that his actions caused more than $15,000 in losses to Excellon.
“As evidenced in Mr. Pearson's plea agreement, individuals who attempt to hide criminal activity by using TOR are not beyond detection by law enforcement,” said David Bowdich, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office. “This case demonstrates the heightened threat posed by insiders whose attacks can be more effective when they're armed with an understanding of the network operated by a targeted company.”
Pearson pleaded guilty before United States District Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell, who is scheduled to sentence the defendant on May 23. As a result of today’s guilty plea, Pearson faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison,
The investigation in this matter was conducted by the Los Angeles office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.