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Smyrna IT Worker Pleads Guilty to Computer Hacking

Using revenge as a motive, man cripples former company for days after his friend lost his job.

A Smyrna man faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 after pleading guilty Tuesday to computer intrusion charges in U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J.

Jason Cornish, 37, formerly an IT staffer at the U.S. subsidiary of Japanese drug-maker Shionogi, admitted using a public internet connection at a Smyrna McDonald's last February to access the network of the Shionogi subsidiary and wipe out most of the company's computer infrastructure. Shionogi sells the cholesterol medicine Crestor and the anti-depressant Cymbalta.

Cornish managed to delete the contents of 15 VMware hosts used to run the equivalent of 88 servers. The deleted hosts included the company’s e-mail and Blackberry servers, its order tracking system, and its financial management software. In total, the attack cost the Florham Park, N.J., company $800,000.

"The Feb. 3 attack effectively froze Shionogi's operations for a number of days, leaving company employees unable to ship product, to cut checks, or even to communicate via e-mail," the U.S. Department of Justice said in court filings.

Cornish was arrested by FBI special agents near his Smyrna home in early July.

Cornish was an information technology employee at Shionogi, Inc., a United States subsidiary of a Japanese pharmaceutical company with operations in New Jersey and Georgia. In late September 2010, shortly after Cornish had resigned from Shionogi, the company, which performed bad poorly in revoking passwords to the network, announced layoffs that would affect Cornish’s close friend and former supervisor.

In the early morning hours of February 3, 2011, Cornish allegedly gained unauthorized access to Shionogi’s computer network and used a Shionogi user account to access a Shionogi server. Once he accessed the server, Cornish took control of a piece of software that he had secretly installed on the server several weeks earlier from his Smyrna home Internet connection.

The FBI’s Cyber Crimes Task Force revealed that the attack originated from a computer connected to the wireless network of a Smyrna McDonald’s where Cornish had used his credit card to make a purchase minutes before the attack.

Cornish is set to be sentenced on Nov. 10.

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