Former Cisco engineer gets 2-year prison sentence for Webex hack

Cisco didn't seek restitution for $2.4M in restoration and customer service costs

Cisco Webex logo under a magnifying glass

Northern California District Court has handed former Cisco software engineer Sudhish Kasaba Ramesh a two-year prison sentence for deleting 16,000 Webex collaboration accounts.

From August 2016 to April 2018, Ramesh was part of Cisco's platform team, focusing on automation, access to data, and logging metrics. This gave him access to servers on Amazon Web Services (AWS) that ran Cisco's Webex Teams application, which customers use for video conferencing, video messaging, and file sharing.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) charged Ramesh with intentionally accessing a protected computer without authorization and recklessly causing damage on July 13, 2020. He pleaded guilty in San Jose, California on August 26. 

The plea agreement said Ramesh accessed Cisco's cloud infrastructure running on AWS on September 24, 2018. He logged in via a Google Cloud Project account and used his AWS key to delete 456 virtual machines running Webex Teams.

Deleting the virtual machines shut down over 16,000 Webex Teams accounts for up to two weeks, costing around $1.4 million in employee time to restore the damage. According to the DOJ announcement in August, Cisco refunded over $1 million to affected customers de to Ramesh’s actions.

The case leaves two questions unanswered: Why Ramesh did it, and why he left such an obvious trail? He didn't explain his actions in court.

Prosecutors said they were "perplexed" at how Ramesh, who is "a highly intelligent individual," could have left such an obvious trail for the FBI investigators who caught him. He didn't use a proxy to carry out the attack and chose to launch it from his work computer instead, which contained search records querying how to delete Amazon servers. His Google Cloud Project account was also registered under his name and paid for with his credit card.

The District Court sentenced Ramesh to a two-year stint in prison and a $15,000 fine. Cisco didn't seek restitution for the incident, but reports claim he was also fired from his job at personal lifestyle website Stitch Fix. Ramesh will begin his prison sentence on February 10, 2021.

Featured Resources

The ultimate law enforcement agency guide to going mobile

Best practices for implementing a mobile device program

Free download

The business value of Red Hat OpenShift

Platform cost savings, ROI, and the challenges and opportunities of Red Hat OpenShift

Free download

Managing security and risk across the IT supply chain: A practical approach

Best practices for IT supply chain security

Free download

Digital remote monitoring and dispatch services’ impact on edge computing and data centres

Seven trends redefining remote monitoring and field service dispatch service requirements

Free download

Recommended

Microsoft touts new cyber security help for nonprofits
cyber security

Microsoft touts new cyber security help for nonprofits

22 Oct 2021
A quarter of all malicious JavaScript is obfuscated
hacking

A quarter of all malicious JavaScript is obfuscated

20 Oct 2021
Organizations warned of ransomware risk from smaller operators
ransomware

Organizations warned of ransomware risk from smaller operators

19 Oct 2021
Iranian hacking group continues to target US citizens
hacking

Iranian hacking group continues to target US citizens

18 Oct 2021

Most Popular

Best Linux distros 2021
operating systems

Best Linux distros 2021

11 Oct 2021
Apple MacBook Pro 15in vs Dell XPS 15: Clash of the titans
Laptops

Apple MacBook Pro 15in vs Dell XPS 15: Clash of the titans

11 Oct 2021
Windows 11 has problems with Oracle VirtualBox
Microsoft Windows

Windows 11 has problems with Oracle VirtualBox

5 Oct 2021