Former employee of Canadian Pacific Railway guilty of damaging ex-employer’s computer network
Christopher Victor Grupe of Minneapolis, Minnesota, was charged on April 11, with one count of intentional damage to a protected computer and on October 6, following a five-day trial, was found guilty by a federal jury in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A sentencing date has not been set.
As proven at trial, from September 2013 until December 2015, Grupe was employed as an IT professional by Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), a transcontinental railroad company headquartered in Alberta, Canada, with U.S. headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
On December 15, 2015, following a 12-day suspension, Grupe was notified by CPR management that he was going to be fired due to insubordination.
However, at his request, Grupe was instead allowed to resign, effective that same day. In his resignation letter, Grupe indicated that he would return all company property, including his laptop, remote access device, and access badges, to the CPR office.
As proven at trial, on December 17, 2015, before returning his laptop and remote access device, Grupe used both to gain access to the CPR network’s core “switches” – high-powered computers through which critical data in the CPR network flowed.
Once inside, Grupe strategically deleted files, removed administrative-level accounts, and changed passwords on the remaining administrative-level accounts, thereby locking CPR out of these network switches. Grupe then attempted to conceal his activity by wiping the laptop’s hard drive before returning it to CPR.
On January 6, 2016, while trying to address a networking problem, the CPR network staff discovered that they were unable to access the main network switches.
After CPR IT staff was able to regain access to the switches through a risky, but successful, rebooting procedure, they discovered evidence in logging data stored in the memory of the switches connecting the damage to Grupe.
CPR hired an outside computer security company to identify the source and scope of the intrusion as well as conduct an incident analysis, which also connected the damage to Grupe.
In total, CPR experienced a financial loss of approximately $30,000 as a result of Grupe’s conduct. ■