Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Texan Gets Prison for Hacking Washington Co. Nonprofit's Computers

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Texan Gets Prison for Hacking Washington Co. Nonprofit's Computers

Article excerpt

Brandon Coughlin, a young Texas computer expert who had recently worked for a NASA contractor, has shown a disturbing pattern in his professional life, prosecutors say.

He gets a job, he does something wrong, he gets fired, and he takes revenge by hacking into his former employer's computers, shutting them down, stealing from them and generally causing cyber-havoc.

That's what he admitted he did in 2013 to the Centerville Clinics, a nonprofit health care provider for the poor and uninsured in Washington County where he had been in charge of information technology before being forced to resign.

On Wednesday he paid the price with a 27-month federal prison sentence.

U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti imposed that term and said it was necessary to punish Coughlin, 30, a 2014 Waynesburg University graduate from Houston. She also ordered him to pay $64,000 to Centerville for the harm he caused in destroying patient files and records.

"This was very serious in terms of these offenses," she told him. "This is a wake-up call for you."

Coughlin cried and apologized.

"I don't think I can put into words how sorry I am," he said.

Joe Yablonski, president of Centerville's board of directors, said Coughlin's hacking disabled the nonprofit's computer system at 11 facilities in three counties and hurt many patients whose files were lost. Coughlin had been entrusted to shore up the organization's cybersecurity and abused that trust, he said.

"This was an attack that we took in a personal way," he said.

Coughlin pleaded guilty in June to hacking and damaging 13 servers operated by Centerville as well as using a company purchase card to order merchandise from Staples. He'd been hired in January 2013 to be the in-house computer systems administrator. He quit on Feb. 4 after the clinic learned that he had stolen from his previous employer, Home Depot.

Using the administrative passwords he knew from working at Centerville, he hacked the network on Sept. …

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