Hacking your ex-bosses’ FTP server is punishable with years in prison, as one Tennessee man found out the hard way. 45-year-old Jason Needham has been sentenced to 18 months behind bars and two-years of supervised release for hacking his former employer’s server to obtain business information worth half a million dollars.
Needham worked at engineering & design firm Allen & Hoshall until 2013, when he left to become his own boss and open a consultancy firm called HNA. He realized he could still access Allen & Hoshall’s assets from his home computer, which he did repeatedly in the years to follow.
Despite A&H routinely changing their FTP servers’ passwords, Needham could hack his way inside, court documents showed. Needham’s business partner at HNA, aware of his wrongdoing, reportedly urged him to stop raiding the remote servers, but to no avail.
When an Allen & Hoshall client received an unsolicited offer from Needham – the wording bearing a striking resemblance to A&H’s verbiage – the FBI were alerted and Needham’s computer was seized.
Pleading guilty to the charges, Needham told the court, “I never had a criminal intent. It was a habit, like checking in with an extended family.”
“I had a desire to maintain continuity of the projects I started at A&H. I can see now in hindsight that continuing to access their system could give someone a competitive advantage, but I never intended to use that to gain an advantage,” he said.
But authorities discovered that Needham had been hacking his former employer’s FTP server on a regular basis, downloading hundreds of PDF documents and AutoCAD schematics, job bids, and other intellectual property, the United States’ Department of Justice (DoJ) reports.
Needham had also accessed the email account of an ex colleague to obtain “the firm’s marketing plans, project proposals, company fee structures and the rotating account credentials for the company’s internal document-sharing system,” according to the press release.
Authorities estimated the total value of the stolen proprietary business information at $500,000.
In addition to serving 18 months in jail and two years’ supervised release, Needham has been ordered to pay A&H $172,393.71 in damages. The man has also been forced to forfeit his engineering license.