Fired IT Contractor Jailed for Retaliatory Cyber-Attack

An IT contractor who carried out a retaliatory cyber-attack after being fired for underperforming has been sent to prison. 

Indian national Deepanshu Kher was hired by an American IT consulting firm in 2017. The firm sent Kher to the headquarters of a company in Carlsbad, California, to assist the business with its migration to a Microsoft Office 365 (MS O365) environment.

The company was unhappy with the standard of Kher’s work and wasted no time in reporting their dissatisfaction to his employer. In January 2018, Kher was removed from the Carlsbad company’s headquarters, and on May 4, he was fired from his position at the IT consulting firm. 

A month after losing his job, Kher moved to Delhi, India, from where he took his revenge. On August 8, 2018, Kher hacked into the server of the Carlsbad company that had complained about his performance and deleted over 1,200 of its 1,500 MS O365 user accounts.  

The cyber-attack affected the majority of the company’s employees. Its impact was so serious that the company was forced to shut down completely for a period of two days. 

Employees could not access their email, contact lists, meeting calendars, documents, corporate directories, video and audio conferences, and the Virtual Teams environment they relied on to perform their jobs. 

Customers, vendors, and consumers couldn’t be reached by company employees, and the employees were not able to inform clients about what was going on or let them know when company operations would be restored.

Following the attack, the Carlsbad company repeatedly suffered IT problems for three months. Employees didn’t receive meeting invites and cancellations, contact lists had to be rebuilt from scratch, and access to folders had to be restored. 

Court documents record the company’s vice president of IT stating: “In my 30-plus years as an IT professional, I have never been a part of a more difficult and trying work situation.”

Kher was arrested when he flew to the United States on January 11, 2021. On March 22, the 32-year-old was sentenced to two years in prison and three years’ supervised released. He was further ordered to pay $567,084 in restitution to the company whose operations he sabotaged.

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