A Morris County man pleaded guilty to his role in a computer-hacking scheme that targeted two companies in New Jersey and stole employee and company data from both.
U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito made the announcement in a release on Tuesday regarding Ankur Agarwal, 45, of Montville.
Agarwal pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton in Newark federal court to two counts of obtaining information from computers and one count of aggravated identity theft.
The charges each carry a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison. The charge of aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory term of two years in prison, which must run consecutively to the other term of imprisonment imposed, according to the release.
All three charges are punishable by a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.
Office spokesman Matthew Reilly said the two companies Agarwal hacked, referred to only as “Company One” and “Company Two” in court documents, are not being identified.
In both cases, Agarwal used the same method, the office said. Starting in February 2017, Agarwal allegedly trespassed onto both companies’ premises and illegally installed hardware key-logger devices onto computers that recorded employees’ keystrokes, yielding a trove of employee usernames and passwords for him to use, according to the release.
Agarwal then installed his personal computer and a hard drive onto each company’s computer network, and stole and transferred data and information from each, including emerging technology that both companies were developing, the release said.
Using the fraudulently obtained login credentials, Agarwal hacked into each company’s network and targeted various employees, and also created a “malicious code” that he installed onto Company One’s computer systems in order to steal and transfer the data to himself, according to the information.
With Company Two, Agarwal again obtained unauthorized access into an employee’s computer system and then fraudulently created an access badge that enabled him to physically trespass onto its premises, the release said.
As part of the plea, Agarwal agreed to forfeit numerous devices and equipment, according to the release, which noted that his sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 28, 2020.
Samuel Braverman in New York, the attorney for Agarwal, was not immediately available to comment.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew Feldman Nikic and Anthony Moscato, chief of the National Security Unit, in Newark, are representing the government, the release noted.