Mount Washington couple plead guilty in Downtown Pittsburgh law firm hack

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Fired by a Downtown law firm, a Mount Washington woman went on Facebook and provided a password to its computers to a hacker friend. Now she and her husband face Oct. 15 sentencing following guilty pleas Tuesday.

Alyson L. Cunningham, 25, and her husband Jonathan A. Cunningham, 29, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of damaging a protected computer and trafficking in passwords, which can carry prison sentences of up to one year in prison. A plea agreement, if approved by U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone, also would oblige them to pay restitution of $2,445 each to the family law firm Voelker & Gricks, at which Ms. Cunningham worked until November 2011.

According to assistant U.S. attorney James Kitchen, Ms. Cunningham, after her firing, used Facebook to transmit the firm's server password to her friend, Matthew James West, 21, of Esplen. Mr. West then logged into the server and installed software that would capture all passwords later used to access it.

Mr. Kitchen said Ms. Cunningham and her husband communicated with Mr. West via instant message and Skype during the hack.

Mr. West later sent an email to the firm, claiming that he was a member of the hacking collective known as Anonymous, according to Mr. Kitchen. In that email, Mr. West wrote that he had deleted data and would be monitoring the firm routinely to ensure "that business is fair and just," Mr. Kitchen said.

When FBI agents searched Mr. West's residence, he confessed and said that Ms. Cunningham gave him the password, Mr. Kitchen said.

Charles Voelker of Voelker & Gricks said that "none of our law firm's [data] or confidential client information was compromised," and that the firm "took some additional measures" to secure their servers.

Mr. West pleaded guilty in April to the same charges. He is slated to be sentenced Sept. 4.

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Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 and on Twitter: @richelord. First Published June 4, 2013 11:30 AM


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