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Insider Stole Yacht IP via USB, Company Alleges

by Chris Brook on Wednesday September 30, 2020

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The latest industrial espionage case involves theft at a yacht manufacturer by a now ex-employee.

Source code, secret recipes, proprietary chemical formulas. Each company’s intellectual property is different in its own way.

For companies that make yachts - equally technical and luxurious in their design – this is no different.

Perhaps that’s what drove an employee – now former employee - of a new Jersey-based luxury boat manufacturer to take some of his company's proprietary information earlier this year.

The employee, Cameron O’Connell, was charged with computer crime last week after allegedly using a USB storage device to secretly download data from his employer's internal network.

A joint statement released by Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina and New Jersey State Police Colonel Patrick J. Callahan on Tuesday confirmed the charges.

“Industrial espionage is a very serious crime; the theft of trade secrets and other proprietary information can be devastating to a company,” Prosecutor Coffina said in the statement. “We are committed to protecting Burlington County businesses from the stealing of their property, whether at the sales counter or in the design room.”

According to the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office's statement, the case will be prepared for presentation to a Burlington County Grand Jury for possible indictment.

Because the statement is light on details, it’s unclear what exactly O’Connell stole; the note says O’Connell is being charged with stealing proprietary intellectual property.

The state’s police make a point in the statement to drive home how valuable IP can be, stressing that it can lead to job loss and other repercussions down the line.

"This type of theft comes with real-life consequences, which can cost companies millions and lead to job loss,” Colonel Callahan said. “We will continue to vigorously investigate and pursue those who seek to harm New Jersey businesses and ensure that anyone who attempts to profit from the theft of protected and proprietary information is held accountable.”

His employer, Viking Yacht Company, a yacht manufacturer that builds luxury sportfishing and motor yachts, located in Gretna, New Jersey, realized something was afoot in early September, when it contacted the New Jersey State Police and informed them their internal information network had been compromised.

How O'Connell, an electro-mechanical engineer with Viking Yacht since 2014, was able to access the data is clear. According to the statement, he used his own login information to gain access to the company’s system. What’s unclear is whether there were any mechanisms in place to prevent either the movement or removal of sensitive data after the fact.

While some businesses have solutions in place to prohibit data theft via USB storage devices, not every company has one in place. Still, because they’re small, inexpensive and can store upwards to 256 gigabytes of data, the unauthorized use of USB flash drives and memory sticks continue to plague organizations without safeguards to prevent data loss in place.

Tags:  IP theft

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