A former employee of American technology company Ubiquiti has been imprisoned for six years after confessing to pretending to be an anonymous hacker and whistleblower to try and extort nearly $2m worth of cryptocurrency from the company.
According to a press release published by the US Attorney’s Office last week, Nickolas Sharp, who worked as a senior developer, was arrested for illegally accessing confidential data and attempting to extort 50 Bitcoin from the network technology provider by sending an anonymous email.
The defendant not only perpetrated the breach but reportedly orchestrated the publication of misleading news articles about the company’s handling of the incident, ultimately leading to a loss of over $4 billion in the company’s market capitalization.
“Nickolas Sharp was paid close to a quarter million dollars a year to help keep his employer safe,” said US Attorney Damian Williams, commenting on the news.
“He abused that trust by stealing a massive amount of sensitive data, attempting to implicate innocent employees in his attack, extorting his employer for ransom, obstructing law enforcement, and spreading false news stories that harmed the company and anyone who invested in the company. Sharp now faces serious penalties for his callous crimes.”
The US Attorney added that on approximately March 24 2021, FBI agents carried out a search warrant at Sharp’s residence in Portland, Oregon. They successfully seized various electronic devices, including a laptop that Sharp had utilized to pilfer Ubiquiti’s data.
During the search, Sharp deliberately provided multiple false statements to the FBI agents. On February 2 2023, Sharp eventually pleaded guilty to one count of transmitting a program to a protected computer that intentionally caused damage, one count of wire fraud and one count of making false statements to the FBI.
Aside from being given a prison sentence, the defendant was also mandated to pay $1,590,487 in restitution and forfeit any personal property utilized or intended for use in relation to the crimes committed. Moreover, Sharp was placed under three years of supervised release.
The sentence comes a few months after a US man was charged with fraudulently obtaining $110m of cryptocurrency from crypto exchange Mango Markets and its customers.