IT admin sentenced after blackmailing business, redirecting website to porn

The admin demanded $10,000 from a company after sabotaging their website.

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Christopher Schirner | CC

An IT administrator has been sentenced to four years of federal probation after being found guilty of holding a company to ransom and sabotaging their website to redirect visitors to a pornographic website.

On Tuesday, the US Department of Justice said the Tempe, Arizona resident provided IT services for the unnamed company based in Phoenix, but used this access to compromise the business' website. The administrator, Travis Tso, not only locked employees out of their email accounts, but also turned the company's home page blank.

According to the plea deal, Tso renewed the company's account with GoDaddy -- likely for domain name or hosting services -- in 2011. In May 2015, the firm updated its contact details with the domain registrar, and the IT admin claimed he did not have the account details required, before setting up his own with Microsoft to take control.

The IT administrator then blackmailed the company, demanding $10,000 to unlock the domain and give back control. When the company refused, Tso then made matters worse by redirecting the home page to a gay pornographic website.

After several days, the website was returned to normal, and the FBI tracked Tso down, leading to a charge of wire fraud under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).

Tso has also been ordered to pay $9,145 in damages to the victim.

As noted by Ars Technica, prison time was not sought by prosecutors. US Attorney Matthew Binford said the blackmail attempt appeared to be an "out of character [..] one-time lapse in judgment" by the 39-year-old, who is otherwise employed.

Earlier this month, US prosecutors jailed a member of the "Crackas with Attitude" hacking group to five years in prison. Justin Liverman, also known as "D3F4ULT," admitted involvement in schemes including the leak of sensitive information belonging to over 30,000 FBI and DoJ agents.

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