Insider Signal Plus - 2021.12
A fired employee poses as a ransomware hacker, a skunkworks team member takes proprietary information, an engineer steals data and attempts extortion, and a government leak exposes citizens' info.
Ex-Staffer Extorts Old Firm, Poses as Ransomware Hacker
Nicholas Burks, 29, a former employee at tech support company Asurion, has been arrested for theft and extortion. Upon being terminated for performance issues, Burks allegedly stole a company laptop, accessed the corporate network, downloaded 100 terabytes of proprietary information, posed as a ransomware hacker, and convinced Asurion to pay him more than $300,000 for not posting the company's sensitive information.
This is yet another case in which an employee terminated for performance problems retaliated against their former employer.
As a hacker might do, Burks contacted Asurion leadership, specifying the data he had, to include financial documents, more than a million customer identities, and thousands of staff social security numbers.
Burks reached out to seven executives via email to make his demand.
He threatened to publicly publish the data if he didn't receive a ransom payment within 24 hours.
Burks included some of the stolen information to prove that he wasn't bluffing.
Asurion purportedly paid Burks $300,000 via multiple cryptocurrencies.
Burks allegedly used a "tumbler" to shield the origins of the cryptocurrency, then split the funds and deposited them in several accounts.
Employers must be fastidious about immediately shutting down physical and virtual access to terminated staff, and to collecting any company materials in the ex-employee's possession, such as phones, laptops, hard drives, customer lists, and strategy documents.
To stall for time, Asurion made daily $50,000 payments to Burks, initiated an internal probe, then contacted the FBI for assistance, according to a federal search warrant.
Asurion identified the culprit when an inventory showed a laptop was missing and the last login was by Burks.
The company then noticed that in Burks' last few days on the job, the laptop, which had four hard drives attached, accessed the corporate network multiple times.
The FBI reportedly surveilled Burks as Asurion made the first payment.
Immediately after Asurion made the first $50,000 payment, the FBI saw Burks pick up his phone and type on it. Immediately thereafter, Asurion received a message demanding a larger payment.
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Lab-Grown Meat Company In Beef With Staffer They Allege Stole Proprietary Data
Upside Foods, which is developing technology to make lab-grown meat more affordable, has sued a former research associate for allegedly stealing thousands of confidential documents, including trade secrets. The employee, Napat Tandikul, was working in an elite skunkworks team within Upside Foods on the company's most secretive and far-reaching projects. Upside alleges Tandikul downloaded thousands of documents pertaining to the skunkworks activities, to include thousands of sensitive documents. Those documents contained information on the design of a bioreactor used to grow the animal cells for cultured meat products, as well as business goals and testing data.
By the time Tandikul allegedly misappropriated the information, she was the only employee left on the elite skunkworks team.
The two other members, including one of the company's cofounders, had left within the prior few months.
By its highly secretive nature, very few people in the company knew what information the skunkworks team had and what they were working on.
Leaving one person in control of a company's most valuable information is a recipe for trouble.