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Woman sentenced for breaching former employer's PCs

Pants-ate-my-hard-drive defense fails

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A California woman has been sentenced to 60 days home detention and a year of probation for breaching the mail system of a former employer and posting confidential company documents to public websites.

Ming Shao, who was 44 years old according to court documents filed last week, pleaded guilty to one count of felony computer intrusion. In a plea agreement, she admitted that the value of stolen information, which included a “Weekly Ops Report” distributed to executives of PanTerra Networks was from $10,000 to 30,000 to the Sunnyvale, California company. She said she retaliated against the company after being fired August 2009.

Shao had access to two employee email accounts for months following her dismissal. On several occasions, she posted confidential information to websites such as sacramentograpevine.com and hostedpbxproviders.com. The latter website, which covers user reviews and comments about PanTerra and other companies that provide private branch exchange services, published a posting by Shao that described a server crash.

Other information leaked by Shao concerned contracts in negotiation between PanTerra and potential customers. One company that was in negotiations for a contract valued at $30,000 to $50,000 dropped out after being outted.

During an FBI raid on her Cupertino home, Shao touched off a major confrontation with agents when she disappeared into a bathroom with a hard drive that was subject to a search warrant.

“Agents advised Shao that they knew she took the drive and that they would not be leaving until they found the drive and that she should turn it over,” a criminal complaint filed in July 2010 alleged. “After several minutes of silence, Shao reached into her pants and pulled the hard drive out.”

Shao was also ordered to pay a $2,000 fine and $20,747 in restitution. Prosecutors sought a sentence of probation because it was Shao's first offense and because she didn't benefit financially from the breach. ®

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