RealNews

Worker Vengeance Makes its Way Online

Furious that he’d been fired from the travel agency where he worked, James O’Brien waited months before allegedly springing his carefully plotted revenge. Just before Christmas 2000, according to federal prosecutors, O’Brien hacked into his former employer’s computer system and canceled 60 customers’ airline tickets. The move cost the agency $96,000 and left dozens of would-be holiday vacationers stranded at airports. O’Brien’s alleged crime, according to federal law enforcement officials who brought charges against him last month, is the new face of hacking: Irate workers who in the old, low-tech days might have simmered or spread slander about their ex-bosses now instead are wreaking havoc on their former workplaces by infiltrating their computer systems. “Ten years ago, almost all computer crime tended to be kids, seeing what they could do,” said Assistant US Attorney Allison D. Burroughs, who heads the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property unit in the US attorney’s office in Boston. “Now, it’s disgruntled employees.” Burroughs’s unit is currently working on 10 other cases in the federal district of Massachusetts involving fired employees who allegedly struck back at their former bosses by hacking into company computers. About three-quarters of all federal hacking cases in Massachusetts, she said, involve disaffected employees, compared with a decade ago when that proportion of hacking cases stemmed from juveniles vandalizing computer systems. Full Story

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