[ISN] State computer worker says 'hacking' justified

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Wed Feb 2 06:10:50 EST 2005


Advocate Staff Writer 

A state computer worker testified Tuesday that he did nothing wrong
when he used the identifications of other state workers, including his
boss, to gain access to computer files and to raise his access level
in state computer systems.

Andrew Mata, 44, claims he was not given the correct access level when
he started work with his new job at the state and he used another
computer worker's identification to set his access level to where he
thinks it should have been. Mata also admitted getting into files that
pertained to an investigation that ultimately led to his indictment.

Mata testified that his new boss, John Pourciau, instructed him to
find out what he could about the investigation.

Mata has been on trial for more than a week on a charge of offenses
against intellectual property. Mata testified that he was hired by the
Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to be the administrator
of the computer system that handled Medicaid for the state. Mata had
worked at the state Department of Social Services before leaving for
the Health and Hospitals job.

Shortly after starting the job at Health and Hospitals, Mata testified
that he tried to start work and thought he would have the same
security clearances as he had with the Social Services. Mata testified
he discovered a computer worker with Social Services, Bobby Collins,
had lowered his access level.

Prosecutor Mark Pethke said Mata used Collins' computer system
identification to enter a "back door" of the system and raise his
access level to that of an administrator -- a move that granted Mata
broad access into Social Services systems.

Mata testified that he did not consider this to be hacking into the
state computer system, as prosecutors allege, because the program he
entered was still in the testing phase and there was no data stored on
the program at the time.

"It's a test system. You are supposed to try to break it. If it breaks
you fix it or go find something to replace it with," Mata testified.

Pethke contends that Social Services workers kept removing Mata's
elevated access clearance because he was no longer a Social Services
employee and he wasn't supposed to have access to many sensitive files
the office maintains.

Mata testified he worked for Social Services for about 10 years and
left the agency on good terms. He said he does not understand why
Social Services employees were monitoring his actions just four days
after he started his new job with Health and Hospitals.

The investigation of Mata began in the spring of 1999. Mata testified
that he needed the access because of Y2K problems that the state was
concerned about at the time.

Mata testified that the investigation and its consequences have been
stressful on him and his family.

"I want to clear my name and move on," Mata testified.

The charge of offenses against intellectual property carries a penalty
of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Mata was the last person to testify Tuesday in the trial. State
District Judge Richard Anderson recessed the trial until today.

When the trial resumes, Pethke and defense attorney Lewis Unglesby
will make their closing arguments. Jurors are expected to get the case
after lunch today.

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