Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

An Oceanside man faces a 10-year prison term when he is sentenced May 23 for repeated attacks on a computer system operated by his former employer, a manufacturer of precision laser and mechanical drilling equipment.

Conrad Pearson, 64, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Los Angeles federal court to one count of unauthorized damage to a protected computer, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Pearson admitted that soon after he stopped working for Excellon Automation, he began transmitting “attack scripts” to the Rancho Dominguez company’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 court documents. The Partlink application allowed customers to check inventory of Excellon products.

The computer attacks, 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 prosecutors.

The computer hacking caused more than $15,000 in losses to Excellon, officials said.

“Computer hacking causes significant economic damage to local businesses and therefore threatens the economic vitality of our entire region,” said Eileen M. Decker, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles.

“This defendant used his computer expertise and his knowledge of his former employer’s business to severely disrupt the company’s operations,” she said. “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 that, in an attempt to hide his Internet address, he used a network that helps conceal the identity of a user by routing it through a distributed network of relays all around the world.

“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,” said David Bowdich, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office.

As a result of his guilty plea, Pearson faces up to 10 years in federal prison, prosecutors said.

— Wire reports 

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