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New Lawsuit Alleges Theft of Bridge Security Trade Secrets

by Chris Brook on Thursday March 5, 2020

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This armor safety company claims a former employee stole secrets via a USB drive and used them to net a multi-million dollar contract.

A company that specializes in law enforcement solutions, including bulletproof vehicle armor and tactical shields, is alleging that a former employee stole sensitive company secrets before he was fired in order to gain a competitive advantage over the company.

According to a court filing last month, the purportedly stolen data included thousands upon thousands of files, 27,000 in total, including proprietary designs, engineering drawings, confidential pricing information, financial records, and contracts.

The files, most of which related to bridge armor logistics, belonged to Hardwire, an armored gear manufacturer based in Maryland.

When bridges are constructed, they're fortified with cable shields designed to protect the bridge in the event of terrorism, blasts, or fire. The cables can be accented by other structural enhancements, like pylons, depending on a bridge's threat matrix.

In a complaint filed in early February, Hardwire alleges that in 2013, Irvin Ebaugh, formerly the President and Program Manager of the company’s bridge security division, stole some of the company's proprietary data by downloading it to a thumb drive.

Ebaugh, for what it's worth, vehemently denied the charges this week, telling publications "I categorically deny all that's alleged by Hardwire, and it will be worked out in a court of law."

But according to the complaint, interactions between the employee and the company had grown tense before he was fired.

Over the course of a weekend in February that year, Ebaugh apparently downloaded company information to the thumb drive, partially cleaned out his office and sent inflammatory emails to the company's CEO. After hearing he was being fired, the employee "ran to his office, grabbed the thumb drive" and got into a physical altercation with the company's executives when they tried to stop him from removing the thumb drive from the premises. Ebaugh managed to break free, thumb drive intact, however.

To compound matters further, following his dismissal from Hardwire, Ebaugh founded a new company, Infrastructure Armor, or IA, purportedly with Hardwire's trade secrets, to compete with his ex-employer.

Using that data, the complaint alleges, he was able to score a high profile, multi-million dollar contract to install bridge armor for the replacement of Brooklyn's Kosciuszko Bridge. The lawsuit is alleging that due to lapses in Ebaugh and IA's knowledge and expertise, that work now poses a public safety risk, something which could make the bridge vulnerable to attack.

Specifically, among IA's missteps, Hardwire is warning that because IA failed to paint metal pieces used on the bridge properly, they could result in corrosion and part failure. Other parts use "inferior galvanized steel," something that could result in corrosion as well.

While efforts were taken to curb the leakage of Hardwire's trade secrets while Ebaugh worked there - he signed employee agreements, followed security measures, and accessed data on a need to know basis - nothing stopped him from copying the company's files to a USB drive provided to him by the company. Despite investing millions of dollars to its business and research, it's unclear how much the company invested in computer security mechanisms to prevent the theft of data.

While many of the actions outlined in the suit are under investigation - the work on Kosciuszko Bridge, what exactly Ebaugh may have stolen from Hardwire - the company is still suing the ex-employee for more than $39 million, a figure that stems from the theft of trade secrets, breach of contract, conversion of its property, trespass, and interfering with the company's business.

Tags:  IP theft

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