Software exec sentenced for hacking

The president of a U.S. software company has been sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to stealing password-protected files from a competitor.

Jay E. Leonard, 61, was sentenced December 16 to 12 months supervised probation and a US$2,500 fine after pleading guilty to one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer, a misdemeanor charge.

Leonard is the owner of Boulder, Colorado’s Platte River Associates, a company that builds software used in petroleum exploration. He illegally accessed a password-protected area of the Web site belonging to his company’s competitor Zetaware, according to a plea agreement filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

One week later, he chaired a company staff meeting in which “a tentative plan was discussed to exploit and to unlawfully utilize the downloaded Zetaware files for the economic gain of Platte River Associates,” the plea agreement states.

Zetaware CEO Zhiyong He was tipped off to the intrusion by a confidential source, which he then reported to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), court filings state. In an interview Monday, he said he is not sure how Leonard was able to access his Web site, but that he believes that he may have been given a password.

He said that one of Leonard’s employees may have turned his boss in. He knew Leonard professionally and was “very surprised” by the incident, he said.

Leonard accessed the Zetaware site from a Sprint wireless network at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, located near Zetaware’s headquarters, the plea agreement states.

In a separate case, Platte River Associates is also facing charges of “trading with the enemy,” for allegedly allowing its software to be used to evaluate oil and gas development opportunities off the shore of Cuba, which is under a U.S. trade embargo.

“The company has expressed an interest in pleading guilty,” in that case, although no plea has been accepted by the judge, according to Jeffrey Dorschner, a spokesman for the United States Attorney’s office prosecuting the two cases.

Leonard and his attorney did not return calls seeking comment for this story.