On Friday, August the 4th, a Tennessee man was sentenced to 18 months in prison and 2-years of supervised release for accessing a competing engineering firm’s computer network without their authorization. Jason Needham, the 45-year-old co-owner of HNA Engineering, was accused of accessing the competing firm’s network in an attempt to acquire proprietary information. Current Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco and Acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence J. Laurenzi made the announcement together.
Needham was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John T. Fowlkes Jr. for intentionally accessing the computer networks of his previous employer, Allen & Hoshall. Needham has also been ordered to pay his former employer $172,393.71 in restitution. In the end, Needham admitted to the crimes. In his admission statement, he confirmed he had been accessing Allen & Hoshall’s servers for nearly 2 years.
Needham admitted to downloading engineering schematics and more than 100 PDF files. Those files consisted of project proposals and budgetary information. Simultaneously, Needham confessed to accessing the email account of a former colleague with Allen & Hoshall. Doing so provided him with access to the company’s marketing plans, fee structures, project proposals, and rotating account credentials.
In correlation with the guilty plea, Needham used the unauthorized access to view and download proprietary information worth more than $500,000. The FBI aided with the investigation. A spokesperson for Allen & Hoshall stated that the firm believed that the “Court’s sentence will send a clear message to Mr. Needham and the greater business community that cybercrimes, electronic snooping and otherwise accessing electronic information without authorization are real crimes that are unacceptable under the law and are subject to severe penalties.”
Jason Needham, who worked as a design engineer, is the son of the Shelby County’s public works director, Tom Needham. Tom Needham worked as the president of Allan & Hoshall, before making the transition to public service. Jason worked with the firm until 2013. He confessed to accessing the firm’s FTP server to steal 82 AutoCAD files and more from 2014 to 2016. Allen & Hoshall only became aware of the intrusion when Needham submitted a proposal to a client that was very similar to the one composed by Allen & Hoshall.
Now, Jason Needham is looking at 18 months behind bars.