Jury Finds Acxiom Hacker Guilty

by Chip Taulbee  on Friday, Aug. 12, 2005 5:03 pm  

Florida spammer Scott Levine was found guilty Friday of several counts relating to the theft of 1.6 billion data records from Little Rock's Acxiom Corp.

After deliberating since Wednesday, a 12-member jury in U.S. District Court in Little Rock found Levine guilty of:

• 120 counts of unauthorized access to a protected computer
• two counts of access to device fraud
• one count of obstruction of justice

Levine, owner of defunct Snipermail.com Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla., was found not guilty of conspiracy charges and one count of money laundering.

The charges were related to unauthorized downloads made between April 2002 and August 2003.

In a statement released shortly after the verdict, Acxiom thanked the jury for its verdict and said the company was "satisfied and pleased," adding that the case "sends a clear message that cybercrime will not be tolerated."

"We were determined to cooperate in prosecuting this case to the full extent of the law in order to set an example of our firm resolve that all such criminals should pay the consequences for their actions," the company said. "We believe this case sets an example and will deter others who may be attempting, or even contemplating, attacks on data security."

Acxiom went on to say that since the evidence of the crime was uncovered in 2003 it has "made a strong security system even stronger with a comprehensive security strategy." It said it has improved intrusion detection, vulnerability scanning and encryption systems, and enhanced internal and external audit practices. The company previously said it had corrected the flaws on its FTP server that made the security breaches possible.

The company also repeated its earlier claim that there is "no evidence that any individuals are at risk of harm due to the breaches."

Largest Data Theft

Prosecutors have called the heist the largest data theft ever.

In the trial that began July 11, federal prosecutors alleged Levine took advantage of a security flaw on Acxiom's FTP server that yielded a windfall of personal data on millions of Americans. While none of that data was reportedly used for identity theft, Levine was using it to augment Snipermail's data records in order to sell the company for millions, prosecutors claimed.

Without the stolen data "Snipermail was nothing but a spam operation," U.S. Attorney Todd Newton said in his closing arguments Wednesday.

The defense hinged Levine's innocence on a conspiracy theory in which Snipermail president Mike Castro, sales director Jeff Richman and other disgruntled employees aligned to steal the company from Levine and frame him for the data theft.

Castro, Richman and other Snipermail employees made plea agreements with the government and testified against Levine in exchange for lesser sentences.

"Each of these people testifying here are testifying to not go to jail," defense attorney David Garvin said in his closing arguments Wednesday.

Throughout the trial Garvin also tried to portray Levine as too computer illiterate to mastermind the illegal downloads, claiming that in Snipermail's early days Levine could not even send his own e-mails.

But testimony from the government's witnesses and evidence, which included a spreadsheet on Levine's laptop that detailed all the illegal downloads from Acxiom, proved too incriminating for jurors.

Levine, who was joined by his wife Sabrina in throughout the trial, had no comment after the verdict, and neither did his attorney.

Levine will be sentenced on Jan. 9.

The obstruction of justice count carries the stiffest penalty: a maximum 20 years in prison. The access to device fraud counts each carry the maximum of 10 years in prison. And the counts of unauthorized access to a protected computer carry the maximum of five years each.

The next significant court date for Levine, however, will be on Aug. 29 when U.S. District Judge William R. "Bill" Wilson, who presided over the trial, will determine what Levine's forfeiture would be.

Cummins said the government would probably seek $56 million, its estimated value of the stolen data.

More on the trial
Jurors Hear Opening Statements in Case Against Alleged Acxiom Hacker
Trial to Rehash Acxiom's, Hacker's Past



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