Former worker sentenced for wrecking corporate servers

A former contract systems administrator will serve six months in prison for sabotaging systems at his former employer after being fired.

A 42-year-old Connecticut man was sentenced to prison for sabotaging three servers at his former employer.

Prosecutors say that Priyavrat Patel knocked the servers offline over the Thanksgiving 2007 holiday, critically damaging operations at his former employer, Pratt-Read, a 200-year-old toolmaker based in Shelton, Connecticut. Patel pleaded guilty to computer intrusion charges in January 2008.

A federal judge sentenced him Tuesday to six months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Patel has separately agreed to pay Pratt-Read US$120,000 in restitution, but he may be ordered to pay additional fines by the judge, prosecutors say.

According to his plea agreement, Patel, formerly a contract systems administrator for the company, deleted files from Pratt-Read servers, hoping to bring them down.

In court filings, prosecutors say that the on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Patel "had a few drinks," and then accessed the Pratt-Read servers from home in order to retaliate against the company as it was moving operations from Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Shelton. Pratt-Read had fired Patel, a father of three, just over a month earlier, ending his eight-year stint in a contract position.

Best known as a maker of high-end screwdrivers, Pratt Read has about 100 employees.

Patel deleted critical files used by the servers during boot-up, knocking the company's e-mail, database and administration servers offline, court filings state. He removed the same "ntldr," "ntdetect.com" and "boot.ini" files from all systems.

The attack crippled Pratt-Read operations for two weeks, forcing the company to use paper records for a portion of that time, according to court filings. "Without the deleted operating system files, the servers could do nothing when re-started, except print an error message," prosecutors said.

Patel's attorney Cheryl Heffernan argued that Pratt-Read's recovery took a lot longer than it should have, because the company inadvertently caused more damage while trying to repair the situation.

"The point was to "cause a small 'hiccup' that would cause the problems for a matter of hours, not days," she wrote in a court filing.

Patel is scheduled to report to prison on January 5.

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Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
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