Former engineer pleads guilty to Cisco network damage, causing Webex Teams account chaos

The engineer was responsible for damage that cost Cisco $2.4 million to rectify.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

A former Cisco engineer has admitted to illegally accessing Cisco's network and wiping 456 virtual machines as well as causing disruption to over 16,000 Webex Teams accounts.

Sudhish Kasaba Ramesh has taken a plea agreement in a federal court in San Jose after being accused of intentionally accessing a protected computer without authorization and recklessly causing damage, according to the US Department of Justice (DoJ). 

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The 30-year-old engineer resigned in April 2018, but chose to access Cisco's Amazon Web Services (AWS) environment roughly five months after leaving the company in order to deploy code that deleted 456 virtual machines (VMs).

On September 24, 2018, the code was launched from Ramesh's Google Cloud Project account, obliterating the VMs. As a result of this action, over 16,000 Webex Teams accounts were deactivated for two weeks. 

US prosecutors say that the tech giant needed to pay $1.4 million in additional employee time to restore and rectify the damage caused to the system, as well as issue refunds of approximately $1 million to customers impacted by the network issues. 

"He admitted that he acted recklessly in deploying the code, and consciously disregarded the substantial risk that his conduct could harm to Cisco," the DoJ says. 

It is not believed that any customer information was compromised. 

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The engineer was formally charged on July 13, 2020, and is currently out on bail. Ramesh faces up to five years behind bars and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentencing has been set for December 9, 2020. 

In a statement, Cisco said additional safeguards have been implemented and the company dealt with the damage as quickly as possible. 

"We brought this issue directly to law enforcement and appreciate their partnership in bringing this person to justice," Cisco said. "We are confident processes are in place to prevent a recurrence."

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In related news, earlier this week, Cisco purchased BabbleLabs, a company that specializes in technology designed to reduce background noise. 

Noise and environmental distractions can be extremely irritating, and in a time when many of us are working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, remote teleconferencing tools have become crucial to keeping businesses running. 

BabbleLabs' technology will be integrated into the Cisco collaboration portfolio, including Webex Meetings.  

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