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Disgruntled IT Contractor Sentenced in Retaliatory Office 365 Attack

Former contractor deleted 1,200 user accounts in revenge.

A disgruntled IT contractor worker was sentenced today in federal court for hacking into the server of a Carlsbad, Calif., company and deleting over 1,200 Microsoft user accounts in retaliation for a bad performance review. The unnamed company had to shutter for two days while it dealt with the damage.

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Court documents say Deepanshu Kher was employed by an information technology consulting firm in 2017 and 2018 and was hired by the Carlsbad firm to assist with a migration to Microsoft Office 365. 

The company wasn't happy with Kher's work and let the consulting firm know. The firm pulled Kher from the project and fired him soon after in May 2018.  Kher returned to his native India in June 2018.

Federal officials say that while back in India, Kher hacked into the company's server in August 2018 and deleted more than 1,200 of its 1,500 Microsoft Office 365 user accounts. Employees' accounts were deleted — they could not access email, contacts lists, meeting calendars, documents, corporate directories, video and audio conferences, and Virtual Teams. Outside the company, customers, vendors, and consumers were unable to reach company employees, according to details in the federal statement.

Court documents claim the company was deluged with IT problems for three months after the attack. The vice president of IT  told officials, "[i]n my 30-plus years as an IT professional, I have never been a part of a more difficult and trying work situation."

Kher — who was arrested when he flew from India to the United States in January — was sentenced to two years in jail, three years of supervised release, and restitution to the company of $567,084, the amount that the company paid to fix the problems.

"This act of sabotage was destructive for this company," said Acting US Attorney Randy Grossman. "Fortunately, the defendant's revenge was short-lived and justice has been delivered."

The full statement on the sentencing can be read here.

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