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February 23, 2006

Data Theft Defendant Sentenced

The Washington Post is reporting that Scott Levine of Boca Raton, Florida, was sentenced for the theft of 4,789 computer files from Acxiom.  That company collects demographic information for large corporations.  According to the story, the case involved over 1 billion individual records.

Levine stole records that included names, telephone numbers, street addresses and email addresses.  Levine had some access to the Acxiom database as the owner of Snipermail, a company that does mass marketing email.  The government said that he had used decryption software to go beyond his authorized access to steal the data.

The judge had previously ordered restitution in the amount of $249,752 but said he would revise the figure after reviewing the presentencing report.  The government claims the data is worth $58 million.  Levine's lawyer stated that the data was worth only $50,000.  One defense witness testified that the data was purchasable on a budget of $50,000 or less. 

This is interesting for two reasons.  One is that with over 1 billion records at issue, the U.S. population is just under 300 million, which means there is a lot of data collected.  The second reason is the statement by the defense witness that this staggering amount of information could be bought for as little as $50,000.  That's pocket change for large corporations, and easily within reach of small businesses.  Remember the days when Lotus was heavily criticized for attempting to sell a CD-ROM with names and addresses of American households in the late 1980's?  The outcry stopped that product, but apparently not the industry.  How times have changed.

Levine got 8 years, by the way.  The Post story is here.

February 23, 2006 | Permalink

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