Former IT Consultant Charged with Intentionally Causing Damage to Healthcare Company’s Server

An information technology consultant who worked as a contractor at a suburban healthcare company in Chicago has been charged with illegally accessing the company’s network and intentionally causing damage to a protected computer.

Aaron Lockner, 35, of Downers Grove, IL, worked for an IT company that had a contract with a healthcare company to provide security and technology services. Lockner was provided with access to the network of the healthcare provider’s clinic in Oak Lawn, IL, to perform the contracted IT services.

In February 2018, Lockner applied for an employment position with the healthcare provider, but his application was denied. Lockner was then terminated from the IT firm in March 2018. A month later, on or around April 16, 2018, Lockner is alleged to have remotely accessed the computer network of the healthcare company without authorization. According to the indictment, Lockner knowingly caused the transmission of a program, information, code, and command, and as a result of his actions, intentionally caused damage to a protected computer. The computer intrusion impaired medical examinations, treatment, and the care of multiple individuals.

Locker has been indicted on one count of intentionally causing damage to a protected computer. The arraignment has been scheduled for May 31, 0222 in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. If convicted, Lockner could serve up to 10 years in federal prison.

This case highlights the risks posed by insiders. The recently published 2022 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report highlights the risk of attacks by external threat actors, which outnumber insider attacks by 4 to 1, but safeguards also need to be implemented to protect against insider threats.

In this case, the alleged access occurred two months after the application for employment was rejected and one month after being terminated from the IT company. When individuals leave employment, voluntarily or if terminated, access rights to systems need to be immediately revoked and scans of systems conducted to identify any malware or backdoors that may have been installed.

There have been multiple cases of disgruntled IT contractors retaining remote access to systems after termination, with one notable case at a law firm seeing a former IT worker installing a backdoor and subsequently accessing the system and intentionally causing damage after leaving employment. In that case, the individual was sentenced to 115 months in federal prison and was ordered to pay $1.7 million in restitution.

Author: Steve Alder has many years of experience as a journalist, and comes from a background in market research. He is a specialist on legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA. Steve holds a B.Sc. from the University of Liverpool.