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Press Release

Former Public School Information Technology Manager Pleads Guilty to Damaging School's Computer Network

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts
Defendant deactivated school’s phone system and thousands of network user accounts

BOSTON – An Ayer man pleaded guilty today in federal court in Boston to committing a cyberattack against the computer network of his former employer, an Essex County public high school.

Conor LaHiff, 30, pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized damage to protected computers. U.S. Chief District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV scheduled sentencing for March 20, 2024. Among other conditions of release, Judge Saylor required that LaHiff notify prospective employers of his guilty plea, after learning that LaHiff had obtained a similar position at another public high school after being terminated for the charged conduct. LaHiff was charged on Nov. 29, 2023.

LaHiff was employed as a desktop and network manager at an Essex County public high school until he was terminated in June 2023. After he was fired, LaHiff used his administrative privileges to deactivate and delete thousands of Apple IDs from the school’s Apple School Manager account – software used to manage student, faculty and staff information technology resources. LaHiff also deactivated more than 1,400 other Apple accounts and other IT administrative accounts and disabled the school’s private branch phone system, which left the school’s phone service unavailable for approximately 24 hours.

The charge of unauthorized damage to protected computers provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.

Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy and Jodi Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division made the announcement today. Valuable investigative assistance was provided by the Massachusetts State Police and the Haverhill Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mackenzie A. Queenin of the Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit is prosecuting the case.

Updated December 13, 2023