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Cocaine addicted IT manager hacks ex-employer's mail servers

Why change passwords when you've got a baseball bat?

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An IT manager was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for hacking into his former employer's computer system and opening its mail server to the public.

Steven Barnes of Mill Valley, California was sentenced on computer intrusion charges against the streaming media firm Blue Falcon Networks, now known as Akimbo Systems. Barnes worked there as an IT manager between September 2002 until he was fired on April 2003.

In an open letter to the presiding judge, Barnes said pain killers that were prescribed for back pain had relapsed his addiction to alcohol and cocaine, causing his termination from BFN.

Barnes admitted in his plea agreement that he hacked the company's system on two occasions, September 30 and October 1, 2003.

On his first attack, Barnes said he changed BFN's mail server into an open mail server, allowing anyone on the Internet to send email through it. The company's servers soon were spewing out spam messages, causing BFN email traffic to be blacklisted and shutting down employee communication internally and with customers. He also deleted the Microsoft Exchange email database and the mail server's core boot files.

A few days later, Barnes said he accessed BFN's mail servers again and changed its domain name, halting outside email communication. He also deleted BFN's email database again and removed the email server from the domain group. He also deleted the server's core boot files again.

In his letter to the judge, Barnes claims shortly after being fired, Blue Falcon employee Robert Hammer and his son arrived at Barnes' apartment. Barnes said Hammer's son was holding a baseball bat and warned him not to move unless he wanted to get hurt. Hammer and son then allegedly took all of Barnes' computers, including two personal computers, and had him sign paperwork for his firing.

Barnes claims six months later, he learned Blue Falcon had moved its headquarters and was curious to see if they had also moved their servers. That's when he attempted to connect to the BFN's email server.

"To my complete disbelief, I soon realized they did move their servers and they had no firewall and the passwords were not even changed!" he wrote.

At sentencing Thursday in US District Court in San Francisco, Barnes agreed to pay restitution of $54,006. Barnes will serve his prison sentence in January. After his release, he will serve three years probation. ®

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