Durban - A junior technician sabotaged his former boss’s IT company using a virus that shuts down systems unless a ransom is paid.
For his efforts, Keegan Padayachee, 30, was on Friday fined R40 000 by the Durban Magistrate’s Court and given a 12-month suspended sentence of imprisonment.
The court heard the Bluff man had got a job at the company after his father had approached the owners, but quit in July - after five years - via an SMS notification.
Padayachee, who has a previous conviction for a false bomb threat at King Shaka International Airport, looked on blankly as the sentences were handed down.
The company’s director and his wife, who cannot be named by order of the court, sat silently in the public gallery, looking disappointed at the outcome.
Speaking to POST later, he said he would have liked Padayachee to serve time behind bars for the trauma he had suffered.
He said Padayachee was like a son to him, and it still boggled his mind as to why he would commit such a heinous crime.
“He never apologised to me or my family, or even explained why he deleted all my company’s information.”
The director told the court the Ransomware virus used, shuts down systems and makes it inaccessible until one pays a ransom. “Our folders were zipped, but were password protected.”
The password given, he said, was “f***** up”.
But when he opened a folder, it was empty.
The court found Padayachee had infiltrated the company’s network and wiped out years of data, client information and network profiles, resulting in the company having to rebuild from scratch.
Padayachee pleaded guilty to three counts of cybercrime that contravened the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act.
This included unauthorised access to data, unauthorised interference with data and malicious injury to property.
Magistrate Graham Field ordered Padayachee to pay R40 000 (or serve 12 months imprisonment) on the first two counts, and 12 months imprisonment on the third.
However, this was suspended for five years on condition he was not convicted of a similar offence within the period of suspension.
Padayachee said, through his attorney, Logan Padayachee, that he still had access to the company’s network after he quit, because the password was never changed.
“Once I deleted the folder, I created new folders with the same names and password-protected the folders. As a result, I shut down the server by using my internet at home.”
His attorney said his client admitted his actions were “stupid, for he did not know why he did it”.
In her address State prosecutor Roshiela Benimadho said the accused deserved the maximum sentence and rejected that he was remorseful. .
"Whatever the motive was, it caused far reaching consequences on the complainants. He also had ample opportunity to think and re-think his situation, to stop and redeem his actions. He did not do so.."
The director said he had suffered from sleepless nights trying to retrieve the lost data.
He broke down as he explained how helpless he felt in trying to pick up the pieces.
His wife also testified, saying of Padayachee: “I trusted and cared for him like my own. I remember the day the data was compromised, panic and stress hit us completely. How long will we be able to recover so many years of work? How are we going to get back on our feet?”
The court said it was unfortunate Padayachee had not taken the stand, as it wanted to learn more about how the crime was carried out.