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A Florida man has been charged with stealing a vast quantity of personal information from Acxiom, one of the world's largest database companies. Scott Levine, 45, of Boca Raton, Florida, was this week indicted for 144 offences in connection with the alleged attack including "conspiracy, unauthorized access of a protected computer, access device fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice".

The US Department of Justice said the case involves what might be the "largest illegal invasion and theft of personal data to date". Federal investigators charge that Levine and staff at Snipermail stole 8.2 gigabytes of data from Acxiom's FTP servers between April 2002 to August 2003 during the course of 137 separate intrusions. The purloined data was allegedly used in email spamming campaigns by Snipermail, a Boca Raton-based company allegedly controlled by Levine.

Although investigators allege the intrusion and theft of personal information at Acxiom resulted in losses of more than $7m there is no suggestion this data was used in the more serious offence of identity fraud. The DoJ said six other people associated with Snipermail are cooperating in its investigation.

Double jeopardy

Evidence of Snipermail's alleged assault was discovered by investigators probing a separate security breach at Acxiom. Daniel Baas, 25, of Cincinnati, Ohio, pleaded guilty to that attack last December.

Acxiom clients include 14 of the 15 biggest credit card companies, seven of the top ten auto manufacturers and five of the top six retail banks. The company also analyses consumer databases for multinationals such as Microsoft, IBM, AT&T and General Electric.

Arkansas-based Acxiom has overhauled security since the attacks were uncovered. ®

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