[ISN] Alleged hacker is Microsoft employee

From: InfoSec News (isn@private)
Date: Mon Jul 12 2004 - 01:43:16 PDT


By Allison Linn 
July 12, 2004

A man accused of hacking into search engine company AltaVista's
computer systems about two years ago is now employed by Microsoft
Corp, reportedly working on search technology.

Laurent Chavet, 29, was arrested by FBI agents a week ago in Redmond,
Washington, acting on a warrant issued in San Francisco.

Federal prosecutors allege that Chavet hacked into AltaVista's
computer system to obtain software blueprints called source code and
recklessly caused damage to AltaVista's computers.

Microsoft spokeswoman Tami Begasse said today that Chavet, who lives
in Kirkland, a suburb of Seattle on the UD west coast, was an employee
of Microsoft. She declined further comment on the nature of Chavet's
employment or when he started at the company, citing Microsoft policy
on not discussing personnel matters.

Generally speaking, Begasse said: "We're confident in our policies and
procedures we have in place to protect our code and to ensure that
employees do not bring third party code into the work place."

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, citing anonymous sources, reported
that Chavet had been working on Microsoft's MSN Search effort.
In a research paper on search technology published in IBM Systems
Journal, Chavet is listed as a search expert who works at Microsoft
and was previously with AltaVista.

In 2003, AltaVista, based in Sunnyvale, California, was acquired by
search company Overture Services, Inc, which in turn was acquired by
Yahoo Inc later that year. Microsoft's MSN website currently uses both
Overture's and Yahoo's search technology.

But the Redmond company has begun an aggressive effort to develop its
own search technology as it tries to compete with search engine
leaders Google and Yahoo. Microsoft, which has acknowledged it lags in
search, hopes to play catch-up with a broadbased search tool that
allows users to also scour through emails, documents and even big

Court documents say Chavet worked at AltaVista from approximately June
1999 to February 2002. Beginning in late March 2002, the US attorney's
office alleges in court documents, Chavet began accessing AltaVista's
computers without permission, causing about $US5,000 ($A7,000) in
damage over a one year period.

A spokeswoman for Overture declined to comment on Chavet's case.  
Assistant US Attorney Chris Sonderby, who is in charge of the
California unit prosecuting the case, said The Associated Press that
the allegations against Chavet "do not pertain to Microsoft".

Chavet was released on a $US10,000 ($A13,900) bond and is expected to
make a court appearance on July 20 in San Francisco. Both charges
carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $US250,000
($A347,500) fine.

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