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TMCNet:  Ex-employee guilty of hacking Tampa firm [Tampa Tribune, Fla. :: ]

[April 03, 2014]

Ex-employee guilty of hacking Tampa firm [Tampa Tribune, Fla. :: ]

(Tampa Tribune (FL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) April 03--TAMPA -- After Mariusz Sokolewicz was fired from his job at a computer network services company, he broke into the company's computer network and brought it to a halt for 24 hours.


Now Sokolewicz, 32, has agreed to plead guilty to a federal charge of computer fraud, which carries up to a year in prison.

His lawyer, Jeffrey Paulk, said Sokolewicz "made a dumb mistake" and is trying to make up for it.

"He's talked to law enforcement," Paulk said. "He's cleared up any damages that were done. He's going too make full restitution." An official with Sokolewicz's former employer, Vital Network Services, based in Tampa, wouldn't comment on the case. "It's our policy not to discuss internal issues related to the company," said Rick Bowling, vice president of finance and administration.

Paulk said Sokolewicz worked for VNS about six months. He didn't want to say anything about Sokolewicz's motive for disrupting the company's computer network.

Sokolewicz is a Cisco certified inter-networking expert, a level of certification "notoriously difficult to attain and is indicative of a high level of expertise in the computer networking field," according to his plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court.

Sokolewicz was fired June 25. Four months later, on Oct. 20, the company had an intrusion into its computer network, the plea agreement states. The intruder made changes to the configuration of key network devices, bringing the company's operations in Florida and New Jersey to a halt for about 25 hours. The company's domestic and international clients networks and network data were exposed to the intruder.

The company hired another firm, FishNet Security, to investigate. FishNet determined someone had fraudulently used the account name of two other employees to log into the network. The intruder used a network of computer systems through which Internet traffic can be routed in a way that allows anonymity.

Once the intruder got into the company's computer network, he erased the configuration files for routers and switches and set them to reboot and become inoperable without configuration settings. The intruder also logged into the company's phone system and erased its configuration and log files.

The security company also found a piece of malware in VNS' computer system that was programmed to grant covert access to Sokolewicz' home Internet access point, or IP address.

On Feb. 11, federal agents searched Sokolewicz's Tampa home and seized a computer containing the malware found in the company's computer system.

According to the plea agreement, the company had to pay employees overtime to restore network operations and had to pay FishNet. The total expenses to the company are estimated to be more than $70,000.

esilvestrini@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7837 Twitter: @ElaineTBO ___ (c)2014 the Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Fla.) Visit the Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Fla.) at www.tampatrib.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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