Worker vengeance makes its way online

Friday, 23 May 2003, 9:12 AM EST

urious that he'd been fired from the travel agency where he worked, James O'Brien waited months before allegedly springing his carefully plotted revenge. Just before Christmas 2000, according to federal prosecutors, O'Brien hacked into his former employer's computer system and canceled 60 customers' airline tickets.

The move cost the agency $96,000 and left dozens of would-be holiday vacationers stranded at airports.

O'Brien's alleged crime, according to federal law enforcement officials who brought charges against him last month, is the new face of hacking: Irate workers who in the old, low-tech days might have simmered or spread slander about their ex-bosses now instead are wreaking havoc on their former workplaces by infiltrating their computer systems.

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