On April 9, 2019, a federal grand jury indicted Timothy J. Smith of Mobile, Alabama for computer fraud, stealing trade secrets from his former employer, and communicating a threat with the intent to extort his former employer. The indictment results from a joint investigation between the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Escambia County Sherriff’s Office.

Smith was a software engineer for StrikeLines, LLC, a company that uses commercial side-scan sonar equipment to locate fishing reefs in the Gulf of Mexico. StrikeLines sells those coordinates through an interactive map on its website. The indictment alleges that Smith obtained information valued at more than five thousand dollars from a protected computer, stole StrikeLine coordinates, and threatened to injure StrikeLines’ property and reputation. Smith faces up to five years in prison for computer fraud, ten years for theft of trade secrets, and two years for communicating a threat.

Lawrence Keefe, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, explained the government “takes very seriously cyber intrusions of all kinds, ranging from protecting our national security to the secrets of private industries. In our increasingly online society, cyber security is vital to all of us as we conduct internet transactions and conversations so that we can be confident our identities and personal information are protected.”

TIP: This indictment shows the U.S. government’s continued commitment to helping companies protect their electronic assets and serves as a reminder that individuals may face severe criminal penalties if found liable for stealing information from their employers.