As reported by the New York Times, front-office personnel for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team are being investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department. Team employees are accused of breaking into the network of the Houston Astros in order to steal information about players.
Officials said that information about scouting reports, player statistics, and trades were compromised.
Subpoenas have been served on the Cardinals and on Major League Baseball, seeking access to relevant emails.
According to the Times,
Law enforcement officials believe the hacking was executed by vengeful front-office employees for the Cardinals hoping to wreak havoc on the work of Jeff Luhnow, the Astros’ general manager, who had been a successful and polarizing executive with the Cardinals until 2011.
Luhnow was reportedly drawn to baseball “by the statistics-based ‘Moneyball’ phenomenon,” as depicted in the best-selling book by the same name and the Brad Pitt movie based on the book.
While Luhnow was with the Cardinals, the team build a computer network called “Redbird” to organize its operations information. He later created a similar system for the Astros.
According to the Times:
Investigators believe that Cardinals personnel, concerned that Mr. Luhnow had taken their idea and proprietary baseball information to the Astros, examined a master list of passwords used by Mr. Luhnow and the other officials when they worked for the Cardinals. The Cardinals employees are believed to have used those passwords to gain access to the Astros’ network, law enforcement officials said.
This is believed to be the first case of corporate espionage involving allegations of one sports team’s invasion of the computer network of another team.
This investigation offers a very practical lesson for companies wishing to protect their trade secrets: do not allow employees to use the same passwords they used when working at other companies. Those other companies are likely to keep records of employee passwords, and a competitor company where an employee formerly worked may be able to use that information to gain access into a new employer’s network.
In addition, any hacker that breaches the other company’s network may be able to steal passwords and track where the employees who used them ended up.
Leech Tishman’s Intellectual Property Group is based in Pasadena, California with a team of highly-regarded legal professionals with prosecution and litigation expertise in the fields of patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secrets.
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Photo Attribution: “BuschStadium 2006-05-30″ by pdsphil from Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA – Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.