Tech Worker Sentenced to Prison for Hacking

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An Orange, California, IT manager who earlier pled guilty to hacking into his previous employer's computer network was sentenced Monday to five months in prison, the U.S. Attorney's Office said this week.

According to a plea agreement dated August 30, 2004, Mark Erfurt broke into the computer systems of Santa Clara, California's Manufacturing Electronic Sales Corp. (MESC) on January 23 and 24 of 2003. During that time, he deleted data, read e-mail, and downloaded a proprietary database from the network using the PC Anywhere remote control software, the agreement says.

Erfurt also pled guilty to obstructing justice during the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's subsequent investigation by overwriting backup tapes that contained evidence of the break-in, the agreement says.

In addition to the five-month prison term, Erfurt was also sentenced to five months of home detention and three months of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $45,000 in restitution. Erfurt could have been sentenced to a maximum of 5 years imprisonment for the break-in, as well as 20 years for obstruction of justice, the U.S. Attorney says.

Sending a Message

"We hope that cases like this send a message that hacking into the computer network of your former employer is not an HR issue," says Christopher Sonderby, chief of the U.S. Department of Justice's Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property unit. "It is a federal crime that could subject you to imprisonment."

At the time of the break-in, Erfurt was an employee of an MESC competitor, Centaur, based in Irvine, California. He remains an employee at the company, Centaur Chief Executive Officer Bruce Cahill confirmed this week.

"This was a private individual that happened to use a computer system at our office," Cahill says. "We're not involved in this."

MESC could not be reached for comment on this story.

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