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Florida woman accused of deleting $2.5 million in data

Updated Friday, Jan. 25, 2008, at 4:54 p.m. EST

A Florida woman, fearing she was about to be fired from her job, was arrested this week for allegedly deleting seven year's worth of her employer's architectural data.

Marie Cooley, 41, was arrested after entering the offices of Steven E. Hutchins Associates in Jacksonville, Fla., and deleting $2.5 million in files after seeing an advertisement for a job similar to hers in classified advertisements.

Cooley has been charged with damaging computers in excess of $1,000, a second-degree felony. If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison, according to Ken Jefferson, Jacksonville Sherriff's Office public information officer.

Cooley entered the office to pick up her W-2 file Sunday night when she deleted the data and pulled network cables out of place, Jefferson said.

“The lesson to be learned is not to trust your employees with all of you life's work,” he said. “You have to have a backup.”

Steven Hutchins, the firm's owner, could not be immediately reached for comment today, but he told numerous media that his organization was able to recover the lost data.

Hutchins' firm was not about to fire Cooley at the time of the incident. The job ad was for his wife's business, according to press reports.

Insider threats are a growing concern of executives and IT professionals, according to experts. Earlier this month, Yung-Hsun Lin, 51 of Montville, N.J., was sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $81,000 in restitution after he planted a “logic bomb” on the network of his former employer, Medco Health Systems.

Ben Rubin, senior consultant at Mandiant, an incident-response and education organization, told SCMagazineUS.com today that companies should limit the access that employees have to important data.

“The best thing to do is to have more control of the domain, where you have certain individuals with more privilege than others and where any one employee can't just log in and do that to such a central part of the business,” he said.

Ted Julian, vice president of marketing at Application Security Inc., told SCMagazineUS.com today employee monitoring can help alleviate the threat from insiders.

“Any organization with sensitive data and intellectual property needs to be monitoring the access to and the use of that data on an ongoing basis,” he said. “Terminations are just a part of it. What about ID theft and insiders getting pulled into those schemes, whether they're getting paid off or bribed or duped by social engineering?”

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