Suit alleges IT man hacked billion-dollar firm | AspenTimes.com
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Suit alleges IT man hacked billion-dollar firm

Rick CarrollAspen, CO Colorado

Russian hackers, a world-renowned financial advisor and an Aspen computer firm are at the heart of a federal lawsuit recently filed in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey.Aspen second-home owner David Dreman, who is an author, Forbes magazine columnist and runs Dreman Value Management, is suing Aspen Computer Solutions and its owner, Brent Phillips, for more than $250,000. The suit also seeks a jury trial and punitive damages.Dreman, whose firm manages more than $19 billion, claims that Phillips hacked into his company’s computer system, stole passwords and breached its security. Dreman’s clients include corporations, insurance firms, foundations, endowments and individuals, among others. Dreman is suing Phillips, whom he hired in 2003 to be his firm’s information technology specialist, under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The suit claims that Phillips hacked computer systems at Dreman’s homes and offices in Aspen and Morristown, N.J.Phillips said the lawsuit has no merit, but he will fight it nonetheless.”It’s going to cost me all of my savings to prove I did nothing wrong,” he said. “But that’s how the law system works.”Phillips said his firm has a “very good reputation in town” and that Dreman is using him as a scapegoat.”He has no evidence, not a single shred of evidence,” Phillips said. “There’s never been a complaint against us. Everybody loves us.”Phillips has until April 26 to respond to the lawsuit formally. He said he already has hired an attorney, Peter Pizzi of Roseland, N.J.The 23-page lawsuit, meanwhile, claims that Phillips accessed confidential files “in order to obtain proprietary information.” Phillips also installed software that “caused significant damage to the firm’s firewall system,” the suit says. “[Phillips and Aspen Computer Solutions] intentionally, maliciously and without justification or excuse have unreasonably and actually interfered with [Dreman’s] pursuit of prospective economic gain … by attempting to limit and/or eliminating [Dreman’s] ability to provide effective financial services to its clients,” the suit says.The complaint says Dreman enlisted Phillips and his firm to implement security measures and investigate a security breach at Dreman’s New Jersey computer network. As recently as last May, Phillips had been a guest of the Dreman family at their New Jersey home, and he was investigating alleged hacking by Andrew Rakowski. Rakowski also worked as an IT consultant for Dreman, separately from Phillips’ firm, and was fired after the hacking accusations surfaced. The suit claims that Phillips, while in New Jersey, “discovered an invoice from a group of Russian hackers that Rakowski had hired to impermissibly access Mr. Dreman’s personal Yahoo accounts by illegally cracking his password.” Even so, Phillips had maintained to Dreman officials and law enforcement that no security breaches had occurred. Phillips also took up for Rakowski, the suit says, telling Dreman officials there was no reason to fire him. All the while, Phillips assured Dreman that the information he was gathering – which included network traffic in out of the firm’s computer system – was safe, the lawsuit says. Phillips’ assurances continued into last summer, but the suit contends that various former employees of Dreman still had access to the company’s computer network. Then, Phillips abruptly quit working for Dreman on Aug. 3, according to the lawsuit.Phillips’ departure prompted Dreman to bring in an outside consulting firm, CTG, which learned that Phillips was surveying employees and obtaining confidential company data such as passwords and financial information, the suit says.”Phillips’ actions significantly impaired the integrity of [Dreman Value Management’s] computer system by diminishing the ability to protect confidential information,” the suit says.Dreman’s attorney said his client would not be commenting on the lawsuit. Rick Carroll can be reached at rcarroll@aspentimes.com.


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