An IT specialist who tried to get a “financial bounty” by falsely claiming he had uncovered vulnerabilities in Eircom’s systems has been given a suspended sentence and ordered to pay €35,000.
Alexander Jones (33), formerly of Church Road, Skerries, but now residing in the UK, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dishonestly operating a computer with the intention of making a gain at Telephone House, Marlborough Street, Dublin, on a date between February 4th, 2014 and April 24th, 2014.
Det Garda Colm Gallagher told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that while working for a company that provided technical support to Eircom, Jones accessed confidential information.
He claimed he had done this through vulnerabilities in the company’s system, which allowed him to access the information from his personal laptop using a particular type of software. He told his employer that a “bounty” would usually be paid to someone who uncovered a vulnerability.
Internal and external investigations carried out by Eircom proved that Jones could not have accessed the information using the software he had claimed to have used. The total cost of the investigations amounted to €72,000.
Det Garda Gallagher told the court that Jones had actually copied the data from the internal system onto his personal laptop. The investigation exposed that Jones had accessed the telephone conversations of customers and insurance claims.
Judge Martin Nolan said it was an “unusual crime”.
“He attempted to create a problem where there was no problem, then he purported to solve the problem that he had manifested himself.”
The judge said this had created “worry and consternation” for the company.
Judge Nolan said Jones was a man of “considerable talent” but that “he certainly ill-used it”.
He handed down a suspended sentence of three years on the condition that Jones pay €15,000 to his injured parties within the month and a further €20,000 in a year’s time.
Jones, whose partner and baby were in court, cried as the sentence was handed down.
Det Garda Gallagher said Jones had no previous convictions before pleading guilty to similar offences this week before Dublin District Court. He said that, prior to the more recent offences, Jones had generated unauthorised Xbox discount codes valued at €410,000 and sold some of these online.
While €48,000 worth of the codes were used, Microsoft suffered no financial loss as they became aware of the situation and cancelled all of the unauthorised codes.