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9/28/2007
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Cox Telecom Worker Pleads Guilty To Sabotage, Crashing Service

The attack caused the loss of computer and telecommunications services for Cox customers throughout Dallas, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge.

A Cox Communications employee pleaded guilty to hacking into the telecom company's computer system, knocking out service in several parts of the country.

William Bryant, 38, of Norcross, Ga., faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the May 6 incident. The U.S. Attorney's Office reported that his attack crashed sections of the company's system, causing the loss of computer and telecommunications services for Cox customers throughout Dallas, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge. The outage included emergency 911 services.

Cox technicians reportedly restored service within hours.

"Hacking -- intruding into and causing damage to a computer system -- is a serious crime," said U.S. Attorney David E. Nahmias. "Such electronic attacks threaten our nation's technological infrastructure, and we will aggressively investigate and prosecute them."

According to the government, Bryant's manager asked him to resign his position and leave the company. After that, the disgruntled employee attacked the Cox network. He pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal district court to one count of knowingly causing the transmission of information to a computer used in interstate commerce, and as a result intentionally and without authorization causing damage to that computer.

He's scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 13 in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.

Cox Communications bills itself as the third-largest cable provider in the country, with more than 6 million residential and commercial customers. The company offers high-speed Internet and telephony services, as well as cable television.

Bryant's plea deal comes just a week after a former systems administrator at Medco Health Solutions pleaded guilty in federal court to writing and planting malicious code that could have crippled a network that maintains customer health care information. Yung-Hsun Lin, of Montville, N.J., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., to the charge of transmitting code that would cause damage to a protected computer. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years, but the plea deal sets a guideline of 30 to 37 months.

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