Insider Data Breach Leads to Conviction

Robert LilesIn The News

Being terminated or laid off can certainly fill someone with a range of feelings. Some take the news in stride, while most others may naturally feel hurt, depressed, scared, or in many cases, angry. Whatever the emotional response, in time most people accept the end of their employment and carry on with their lives.

A fraction of those who feel anger sometimes react in high-profile ways. This can be as simple as expressing their repressed feelings to the employer—sometimes in a grandiose and over-the-top manner—or as complex as causing damage to property, and sometimes even with tragic consequences involving bodily harm.

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However, a growing number of disgruntled employees lash out at their former employer’s intangible assets. This includes information kept on computers and other systems, which entails personal information, trade secrets, intellectual property, and more. As society has become increasingly reliant on technology and such intangible assets, compromising this data can be quite damaging to an organization. Such is the scenario in a recent case that landed a disgruntled employee in deep trouble.

Disgruntled in Real Time

In January 2019, the New York-based accounting software company 1-800Accountant hired Medghyne Calonge as the new head of human resources in their office based in St. Petersburg, Florida. However, on account of poor work performance, Calonge was terminated after only six months on the job. One incident cited among her performance issues involved an argument with a coworker, whom she subsequently locked out of a computer system.

Calonge was terminated over the phone. As she was being terminated, two colleagues in the office with her at the time later reported seeing her repeatedly pressing the “Delete” key on her keyboard. The damage did not stop then, however. She was escorted from the property. A short while later, she logged onto another computer and accessed the company’s systems.

Calonge undertook a virtual scorched earth campaign against 1-800Accountant. Her blitz included deleting 17,000 resumes of prospective job seekers and leaving profane messages in files. While the company invested two years and over $100,000 on the system, Calonge caused extensive damage within only a couple days.

Fallout

Following the incident, 1-800Accountant spent an additional $100,000 on the situation. They learned that Calonge completely destroyed the system, and part of this six-figure sum—beyond investigation—included rebuilding what she had devastated.

The company had evidence with which they could charge Calonge, and she was tried in the Southern District of New York. Her trial lasted six days and the jury was unanimous in returning a guilty verdict. Calonge was found to have “intentionally and maliciously caused severe damage to the computers of her former employer.”

In August 2021, Calonge was convicted on two counts: one count of intentionally damaging computers and one count of recklessly damaging computers. While she is awaiting sentencing, which is ultimately up to the judge, she faces serious consequences on both counts. For intentionally damaging computers, she may receive up to ten years in prison, and for recklessly damaging them an additional five years.

Digital Forensics

While 1-800Accountant invested heavily in its computer networks, it seemingly did little to prevent access to it as Calonge easily entered it after her termination. This is another example in the growing list of organizations affected by data breaches. While many data breaches do come from outside sources, this was an internal job.

The company in this case had to make further investments to try to recover some data, while also rebuilding its system and figuring out what happened. One result of this process was evidence used to bring Calonge to justice.

SecureForensics is a leader in digital forensics, including carefully sifting through incidents involving disgruntled employees to determine what happened. A digital forensics expert can conduct e-Discovery and provide expert testimony to support criminal or civil litigation.

If you believe an insider has accessed your sensitive information and you need a digital forensics expert to help you with your case, contact SecureForensics today at 1-800-288-1407.