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Former St. Louis Cardinals Exec Pleads Guilty To Cyber Espionage Charges

Cardinals' former director of baseball development confesses to accessing Houston Astros' computers without authorization.

The former director of baseball development for the St. Louis Cardinals, a Major League Baseball (MLB) team, pleaded guilty today to hacking the systems of the Houston Astros, a competing MLB team.

News broke in mid-June that the FBI was investigating the Cardinals in connection with the intrusion. Christopher Correa, 35, St. Louis -- who was employed by the team from 2009 until July 2015 -- confessed to the intrusion, and to unauthorized access of "Ground Control," the Astros' confidential, proprietary database of statistics, scouting reports, and trade discussions. The total intended loss for all of the intrusions is approximately $1.7 million, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The incident is the first known of its kind in the sports world, and a wake-up call that industrial cyber espionage is alive and can affect any industry. 

According to the DOJ release:

In one instance, Correa was able to obtain an Astros employee’s password because that employee has previously been employed by the Cardinals. When he left the Cardinals organization, the employee had to turn over his Cardinals-owned laptop to Correa – along with the laptop’s password. Having that information, Correa was able to access the now-Astros employee’s Ground Control and e-mail accounts using a variation of the password he used while with the Cardinals.

Correa was charged with five counts of unauthorized access of a protected computer. Each conviction carries a maximum possible sentence of five years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine. Sentencing is set for April 11.

No other members of the Cardinals' organization were charged.

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