A Pittsburgh couple will serve three years of probation, pay restitution and serve community service for hacking into the systems of a law firm.
Jonathan Cunningham, 29, and Alyson Cunningham, 26, from Pittsburgh, pleaded guilty in federal court in June on charges of recklessly damaging a computer and password trafficking, according to United States Attorney David J. Hickton.
U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone could have sentenced the two to two years in prison, a fine of $200,000, or both.
In addition to their sentence, the couple’s computer activities will end up monitored and they must notify any employer of their conviction.
The couple and their accomplice, Matthew West, pretended to be members of the Anonymous movement.
On November 28, 2011, a Pittsburgh law firm, referred to as “VG” in court documents fired Alyson Cunningham. After her dismissal, she and her husband contacted West and asked him to hack into the company’s systems.
According to U.S. officials, Alyson had provided a password to West that allowed him to access VG’s servers. Once he broke in, West installed spyware on the company’s networks. He used a VPN proxy in Germany to hide his identity.
One day later, on November 29, West sent an email to a VG partner claiming to be part of Anonymous. He used the firstname.lastname@example.org email address to notify the company they hacked into their systems.
“We are not interested in ruining your business, but routinely checking that business is fair and just. Our motive is to solely capture and record 100 percent of Pittsburgh business records and operations and protect it or use it against you as we could if Anonymous had a reason and needed to,” the email read.
On the night when the breach occurred, the Cunninghams communicated with West on Skype, providing him with instructions and suggestions on what to do.
VG highlighted the fact that neither of the three had authorization to access their computer servers.