Acxiom Customer Data Stolen

December 18, 2003

By John Nolan, Associated Press Writer,4149,1417836,00.asp

CINCINNATI (AP) - An Ohio man pleaded guilty Thursday to hacking into computer records held by Acxiom Corp., a prominent database company that analyzes information for many large businesses.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott accepted the guilty plea of Daniel Baas, 25, of suburban Milford, and ordered him held without bond pending sentencing in about two months.

Federal investigators said Baas gained unauthorized access to an Acxiom computer server in Conway, Ark., and downloaded secret access passwords and data files belonging to Acxiom customers from January 2001 to January 2003. Prosecutors said the hacks cost Acxiom at least $5.8 million.

At the time, Baas worked for a Cincinnati company, Market Intelligence Group, that had an agreement to analyze data for Acxiom.

Baas didn't share the proprietary information with anyone, although he indicated to others that he had it, federal prosecutors said. The data contained personal identification information, investigators said.

"He was a person who liked to retain data on people," said Robert Behlen Jr., an assistant U.S. attorney.

Baas was motivated by curiosity to steal about 300 computer passwords and the data files from Acxiom, but that doesn't excuse him under the law that forbids unauthorized access to computers, defense lawyer Timothy Smith said.

Clients of Acxiom, based in Little Rock, include credit card issuers, banks, auto manufacturers, telecommunications companies and retailers. The company has said about 10 percent of its customers were affected by Baas' hacking.

Baas downloaded data from his Cincinnati office and his home, storing it on CDs in his home. But the data was not used for criminal or commercial purposes, U.S. Attorney Gregory Lockhart said.

The maximum sentence is five years in prison, but prosecutors said Baas is likely to get less because he has accepted responsibility and cooperated with investigators.

Baas also is awaiting trial on similar Ohio charges.

In exchange for Baas' plea Thursday, the government said it agreed not to prosecute him for comments he allegedly made concerning President Bush through Internet chat rooms. Prosecutors didn't reveal those remarks, but said that investigators determined they did not amount to a legitimate threat.

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