A former Microsoft employee accused of leaking prerelease Windows 8 software pleaded guilty to stealing the company’s trade secrets.
Alex Kibkalo, a Russian national who spent seven years as a Microsoft employee in Russia and Lebanon, ended up arrested in Seattle in March on charges that he shared proprietary Microsoft code with an unnamed French tech blogger.
Officials charged the software architect with revealing unreleased updates for the Windows 8-based RT operating system and a copy of the Microsoft Activation Server Software Development Kit. If a hacker obtained the updates, he or she could circumvent Redmond’s anti-piracy measures if they got their hands on it, prosecutors said.
While still a Microsoft employee, Kibkalo emailed the sensitive files to the blogger’s Microsoft-provided Hotmail account. The company’s anti-leak team, in search of evidence, secretly went through the blogger’s private inbox after receiving a tipoff, found the leaked data, and alerted the FBI. Microsoft has since rewritten its Hotmail T&Cs following outcry by privacy activists.
If found guilty at trial, Kibkalo could have received a prison sentence of up to ten years, plus a maximum fine of $250,000. On Monday, his attorney entered a guilty plea in a U.S. federal court in Seattle in exchange for a reduced sentence.
The plea agreement, negotiated with federal prosecutors but has yet to be approved by a judge, recommends a three-month prison term, plus restitution of $22,500 to Microsoft.
It also stipulates, however, that should Kibkalo engage in any further “illegal activity,” the court can nullify the agreement and prosecutors can potentially file additional charges against him.
Kibkalo’s formal sentencing hearing will be July 1.