Former Intel employee admits to computer fraud

A former engineer from the chip giant pleads guilty to putting the brakes on production at one of the company's fabrication facilities after being fired.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
A former Intel engineer who managed to put the brakes on chip production at one of the company's fabrication facilities pleaded guilty to computer fraud.

Paul Barton, a former software engineer at Intel, pleaded guilty to one count of computer fraud this week in U.S. District Court in Oregon, according to Kent Robinson, an assistant U.S. attorney.

In 1997, Intel fired Barton, who managed an automated manufacturing system called Workstream inside Fab 15 in Aloha, Oregon. When the company fired him, Intel revoked his password and took away his computer. What Intel failed to realize, however, was that Barton could log into the system from his home computer.

The next day, at 2:15 a.m., Barton deleted a number of files, which shut down Workstream. "This slowed, but didn't quite stop, the manufacturing process," Robinson said.

In all, Barton clogged the manufacturing process for about four hours. The incident cost about $20,000 to remedy, according to estimates from Intel. Federal law provides criminal penalties for damaging computer systems.

A penalty hearing will take place Sept. 12. Barton faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but he will likely receive a fairly light penalty because of the limited damage, said Robinson. The judge will have the option to have Barton serve time in home confinement.