[ISN] Navy contractor charged with sabotaging computer system

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Wed Jun 28 01:14:52 EDT 2006


The Virginian-Pilot 
© June 27, 2006

NORFOLK - A Navy contractor has been charged with sabotaging a
computer system that plots the locations of ships and submarines.

The computer intrusion could have caused collisions between Navy and
commercial vessels, but it was uncovered before any serious harm was
done, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Monday in U.S.  
District Court here.

The suspect, Richard F. Sylvestre, 43, of Massachusetts, was charged
with unauthorized access to a government national defense computer, a
crime that carries a penalty of as much as 10 years in prison.

Sylvestre said little during his first court appearance Monday.

"Do you understand why you're before this court?" Magistrate James E.  
Bradberry asked Sylvestre .

"Yes, sir," he replied.

Sylvestre, listed in the court record as owner of computer company
Ares Systems International, is accused of programming malicious
software codes into computers at the Navy's European Planning and
Operations Command Center in Naples, Italy, last month, according to
the court records.

Sylvestre later confessed to the crime, according to the complaint
filed by a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent in Norfolk. He
told the agent he was upset that his company's bid on a project was
passed over, the papers say.

Ares already held a Navy contract to provide computer maintenance for
the Navy's European Command.

On May 21 , two Navy computers in Naples were rendered inoperable, the
complaint says.

A computer administrator determined that someone had programmed what's
known as a "cron job" into the system. A cron job enables someone to
schedule the start of program commands at some future date.

The investigation determined that the commands were entered on a
computer last used by Sylvestre on May 19, the complaint says.

The computer administrator also discovered three additional infected
computers that, had the programs been launched, would have shut down
the entire network that tracks the locations of ships and submarines.  
The system helps prevent military and commercial vessels from running
into each other. "Sylvestre denied that he had any intention to cause
a collision or crash," the complaint says.

Sylvestre returned to Norfolk on Sunday aboard the Air Mobility
Command and was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals.

After Monday's court appearance, Bradberry allowed Sylvestre to post a
$10,000 bond and return home to Massachusetts, but not without a stern
warning first.

"This is deadly serious business," Bradberry told him. "Don't take
this lightly."

A grand jury will hear the case within the month, a prosecutor said in

Reach Tim McGlone at (757) 446-2343 or tim.mcglone at pilotonline.com.

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