Man pleads guilty to illegal access to a law firm's computer

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An Esplen man who claimed to be part of the hacking collective called Anonymous pleaded guilty today to unlawful trafficking in computer passwords and reckless damage to a protected computer in relation to what prosecutors said was an effort to access a law firm's employee data.

Matthew James West, 21, confirmed that he helped Alyson Cunningham and her husband, Jonathan Cunningham, to access the computers of a law firm described at today's hearing by the initials VG.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Kitchen said that Ms. Cunningham had just been fired by the firm in late November 2011, and provided her computer password to Mr. West during a Facebook chat. She and her husband then directed Mr. West, via the online communication tool Skype, as he entered the firm's system and inserted a program that transmitted to him the passwords of anyone who logged in, the prosecutor said.

According to Mr. Kitchen, Mr. West then sent an email to the firm, identifying himself as part of the hacking collective known as Anonymous. Mr. West confirmed that he wrote in the email that he was monitoring the firm's activities to confirm that it was behaving in a fair and just manner, and was "not interested in ruining your business."

He has no prior criminal record, and the charges to which he pleaded are misdemeanors. Judge David S. Cercone set sentencing for Sept. 4.

The Cunninghams, of Mount Washington, have pleaded not guilty.

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Rich Lord:, 412-263-1542 or Twitter @richelord


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