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IT Pro Gets Prison Time For Sabotaging Ex-Employer's System 265

itwbennett writes: "In June 2012, Ricky Joe Mitchell of Charleston, West Virginia, found out he was going to be fired from oil and gas company EnerVest and in response he decided to reset the company's servers to their original factory settings. He also disabled cooling equipment for EnerVest's systems and disabled a data-replication process. After pleading guilty in January, Mitchell has been sentenced to four years in federal prison."
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IT Pro Gets Prison Time For Sabotaging Ex-Employer's System

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  • Duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TJ_Phazerhacki ( 520002 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @05:32PM (#47060547) Journal
    The point at which this guy admitted he maliciously tampered with equipment, he was screwed. He should have argued that he was incompetent...
  • Ashamed! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sentiblue ( 3535839 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @05:33PM (#47060549)
    He ruins our IT/Ops names...

    He doesn't deserve the term "Pro"
  • He's lucky (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ralph Wiggam ( 22354 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @05:35PM (#47060559) Homepage

    If he had hacked in from outside the company and done that much damage, he probably would have gotten more than 4 years.

  • Re:Duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @05:41PM (#47060609)

    The point at which this guy admitted he maliciously tampered with equipment, he was screwed. He should have argued that he was incompetent...

    I've seen more than one shop where some vital/important system required the personal intervention of one particular guy to get up and going again in the event that something needed to be reset/rebooted/repaired. I don't believe it was malice, just incompetence, overconfidence, understaffing or some combination that resulted in a plausibly deniable deadman switch.

  • Re:Duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TWX ( 665546 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @05:42PM (#47060621)
    He never should have mounted an argument in the first place. He never should have spoken with authorities without his own representation, and probably not even with his own representation.

    Ignoring for a moment that his choice to act maliciously was what truly screwed him, law enforcement authorities are quite practiced at getting people to admit fault or to use language that allows the authorities to claim an admission. The only winning move is to not participate.
  • Re:Ethics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DocSavage64109 ( 799754 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @05:45PM (#47060655)
    I was talking to an employee who was fired, but still around for a couple of days to clean up her stuff. She asked if I had backups, because she wanted to delete all of the projects she was working on. I told her that she was paid to do that work and I doubt if other people will go through her work that much anyway. Why go the unethical route when it just makes you look bad?

    I bet this guy could have just left, and assuming he was useful, the company would soon be feeling the pain anyway.
  • Re:Ashamed! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mlts ( 1038732 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @05:48PM (#47060681)

    Four years for causing a million dollars worth of damage isn't that harsh a sentence. What would the verdict be if someone came into a facility with a cutting torch and did the same amount of physical damage? It likely would result in an arrest for some terrorism-related charge. Blanking out servers may not be as obvious as driving a semi into some core machinery, but it does the same exact thing, especially if there are no backups. The machinery may be intact, but if there is some manufacturing process that took years to develop and fine-tune, that knowledge can be lost forever.

    This guy got off lightly, and the lesson that EnerVest has learned is that they are probably going to get their next admin or admins from Tata or Infosys, and it won't be surprising to see more companies doing the same thing.

    A friend of mine had to clean up a mess (logic bombs left behind that would corrupt arrays and reset LTO tape passwords) that was similar, due to a disgruntled admin. After he cleaned up the mess and tested that backups were working on separate hardware, he was shown the door, and an offshore company hired for all IT work. The reason: "H-1Bs do not commit sabotage."

  • Crappy headline (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NotSanguine ( 1917456 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @05:52PM (#47060719) Journal

    This guy is no professional. A professional does his job. That's what he/she is paid to do. Since this person was getting fired, I'm guessing he wasn't meeting expectations. Even if it was a broader layoff, there's no reason to act so unprofessionally.

    Not sure if he deserves jail time, but there is no reason to break stuff on your way out the door. I'm glad I know this guy's name. I will certainly never hire him.

  • Re:Ashamed! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @05:56PM (#47060749)

    Four years for causing a million dollars worth of damage isn't that harsh a sentence.

    I might agree with you if Wall Street scammers didn't get less for causing HUNDREDS of millions in losses to their customers. And not from a one-time "flip out", but years of knowingly and systematically screwing over everyone who trusted them...

  • Re:Ethics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @06:00PM (#47060787)

    Why go the unethical route when it just makes you look bad?

    Because humans are herd animals, and corporate politics purposefully try to reinforce this - it's what "team building" and "commitment to job" is ultimately all about. This means that getting fired tends to register at the emotional level: you are being banished from your tribe. Add any actual or perceived injustice, and revenge becomes a factor.

    Modern economic system is pretty perverse, as far as human needs are concerned, so people caught in it tend to act irrationally.

  • Re:Ashamed! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by aardvarkjoe ( 156801 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @06:01PM (#47060797)

    Just because one set of criminals gets off easier than they should, it does not follow that all other criminals should be treated leniently.

  • Re:Duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @06:02PM (#47060803) Journal
    Smart people do dumb things when they're upset. According to TFA, he hacked into a protected computer to create the turmoil.

    I'll bet you a dogecoin he believed he was clever enough not to leave any traces back to himself.

    Inexperienced with law enforcement methods (or perhaps the consequences/repercussions anomaly), it probably didn't occur to him what one of the first lines of inquiry would be.

    Anyone in IT that might be disgruntled?

  • Re:Ashamed! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kelemvor4 ( 1980226 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @06:02PM (#47060817)

    "H-1Bs do not commit sabotage."

    Absolutely, allowing foreign nationals access to your systems is COMPLETELY safe. Moreover, they don't get angry when you take away their livelihood.

  • Re:Ashamed! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by taustin ( 171655 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @06:12PM (#47060941) Homepage Journal

    Actually, between the equal protection clause of the 4th amendment and the cruel and unusual clause of the 8th, it isn't difficult to argue that it does, in fact, mean just that.

  • Re:Ethics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @06:25PM (#47061127) Journal
    Well put.

    And not for nothing, as the grandparent's viewpoint is a sound one... Why be unethical even if you believe you've been done dirty? Hold your head high on the way out the door saying, "I was looking for a job when I found this one." Even if you don't feel it right then, you will be right proud of yourself later on.

    + to you both.

  • Criminal damage (Score:4, Insightful)

    by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @06:40PM (#47061287)

    Open-and-shut case of criminal damage.

    What's amazing, is that there are still neckbeards out where who think that just because they're techies, that norms of proper human behaviour don't belong to them.

  • Re:Ashamed! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by epyT-R ( 613989 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @06:45PM (#47061337)

    Usually the damage estimates are way overstated, so I don't buy it on that assumption, and usually people don't engage in that behavior unless they were treated reprehensibly by their employer beforehand. Perhaps the real solution here is for management to act like human beings instead of jackals.

    If they do outsource, they'll just learn their lesson the hard way. Tata employees don't give a shit about you or your goals, and their code is buggy and broken, requiring a local side programmer to clean up their mess anyway.

    H-1Bs are often treated as slave labor by aforementioned jackal management. I can guarantee they will throw their sabo into the works at some point the moment they have any power, which will happen when there are no more localside programmers left thanks to attitudes like yours.

  • Re:He's lucky (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pkinetics ( 549289 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @07:10PM (#47061543)

    Accused is not the same as convicted.

    However in his case, he admitted to do it, but wormed his way into being allowed to finish out school. First failure of due process.

    The second failure was the court deciding to drop the matter because he had already graduated, so nothing they could do about it.

  • Re:Duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @07:18PM (#47061593)

    If you are not a criminal, present evidence to the police that you are not a criminal

    Incorrect. Present nothing. Say nothing. Do not open your mouth. Stare into space. Daydream. Meticulously mentally design a house in your mind.

    Repeat after me:




  • Why is this news? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lionchild ( 581331 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @08:57PM (#47062237) Journal

    I'm not exactly sure why this is really a news thing. It took up two lines of text, and was about a guy who did something malicious, on purpose, was caught and pleaded guilty. Let's replace IT Pro with some other profession...with say a teacher. They know they're being let go, so they dip all the keys and answer sheets in ink, rendering them useless and remove covers from textbooks. They get caught / found out, admit they did it, they go to jail.

    I just don't get why this is really news-worthy.

  • Re:Duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @10:38PM (#47062689)

    Then you are an idiot, a fool, a liar, or some combination of them.

    Well, I guess you're mean, rash, socially awkward, or some combination of those. I was referring to the situations I'd witnessed myself that had some similarity to the situation in TFA, not TFA guy. Seeing as I was suggesting a similar situation with a possible non-criminal explanation, whereas TFA guy admitted to doing it deliberately, I didn't think it was confusing.

    Or maybe you just read my comment too quickly before posting.

  • Re:Duh... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @11:40PM (#47062919)

    You have no idea how wrong you are.

    Jhon got really really lucky. The first place they're going to look if there's a kidnapping is the parents, and most of the they're going to use everything they find to either build a case or at the very least destroy a reputation. Plenty of cops don't care if they make the right arrest, they're just looking for an arrest. One prescription pill not in its original bottle is all it takes to arrest you if you give them permission to search your house.

    A bit of helpful advice: If your daughter is kidnapped, call your lawyer BEFORE you call the police. Sure, you're innocent. Sure, some innocent people get lucky when they talk to the police. But there are over 2 million people in prison in this country, and they're not all guilty.

BLISS is ignorance.