Bala Cynwyd Man Sentenced to Prison for Hacking Computers of Public Utilities
Adam Flanagan, 42, of Bala Cynwyd, PA was sentenced yesterday by the Hon. Paul Diamond to 12 months, 1 day in prison, based upon his plea of guilty to two counts of unauthorized access to a protected computer and thereby recklessly causing damage, announced Acting United States Attorney Louis D. Lappen. Flanagan was indicted on November 22, 2016, arrested without incident on November 23, 2016, and plead guilty on March 7, 2017.
Flanagan had worked as a radio frequency engineer for a company that made remote meter readers for utility systems. These readers would receive radio signals from individual meters and then process the data for billing. In these instances, the remote readers were installed to read water meters in municipalities spread throughout the eastern United States. After the company terminated Flanagan, he used his knowledge of how these readers operate to gain access to them through the Internet and to disable them. The result was that the municipal water authorities had to send people out to read the individual meters because the billing data was inaccurate. In addition, Flanagan’s former employer had to expend a large amount of time to conduct forensic examinations of the readers to determine what had happened and how to fix the problems.
The advisory Sentencing Guidelines provide for enhanced sentences for attacks on computers involved with critical infrastructure, such as water systems. In this case, Judge Diamond applied the enhancement for interfering with computers used to maintain or operate a critical infrastructure. (The Guidelines also provide a more serious enhancement for computer attacks that cause a substantial disruption of a critical infrastructure.)
The case was investigated by the FBI offices in Raleigh, NC and Philadelphia PA. The investigation was initially handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina and then transferred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, when the defendant was identified as the intruder. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael L. Levy handled the case.