Resentful employee deletes 1,200 Microsoft Office 365 accounts, gets prison

A former IT consultant hacked a company in Carlsbad, California, and deleted almost all its Microsoft Office 365 accounts in an act of revenge that has brought him two years of prison time.

More than 1,200 user accounts were removed in this act of sabotage, causing a complete shutdown of the company’s operations for two days.

Two-day downtime, months of recovery

Deepanshu Kher was working for an IT consulting firm that sent him to a client to help with migrating to Microsoft Office 365 services.

Following customer complaints, his employer pulled him from the task in January 2018 and sacked him in early May.

Kher kept a grudge and returned to his native country, India. On August 8, he hacked into the Carlsbad company and deleted over 1,200 of the 1,500 Microsoft Office 365 accounts present in the environment.

As a result, employees lost access to services that allowed them to do their job: email, contact lists, meeting calendars, documents, video and audio conferences, Teams.

“Outside the company, customers, vendors and consumers were unable to reach company employees (and the employees were unable to reach them),” notes a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Furthermore, there was no way to inform the company’s clients about what had happened and when operations would get back to normal.

The Carlsbad company dealt with issues resulting from this act of sabotage for three months and incurred costs upwards of $560,000.

Kher has a brother working as an engineer in New York. He applied for a visa that was approved in December 2019, indicating a visit to the U.S. He took the trip more than a year later and was taken into custody on January 11, unaware of the outstanding arrest warrant.

U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Huff sentenced Kher to two years in prison, three years of supervised release, and paying $567,084 to the Carlsbad company he had sabotaged. The sum represents the bills the victim paid to recover from the damage.

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