Engineer Faces Prison for Stashing Navy Drone Secrets on His Dropbox

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A pair of unmanned underwater vehicles in a lab at the Naval Undersea War CenterPhoto: AP

An electrical engineer secretly uploaded onto his personal Dropbox account thousands of files containing sensitive information about the unmanned underwater vehicles his company was developing for the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research.

A Connecticut federal jury on Monday found Jared Sparks of Ardmore, Oklahoma, guilty of multiple counts of theft of trade secrets and of uploading of trade secrets, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Justice. Each count carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

“Yesterday’s verdict sends a clear message that the Department of Justice is committed to protecting American intellectual property and will aggressively prosecute those who steal it,” acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan said in the release.

Sparks used to work for LBI Inc., a Connecticut-based defense contractor that makes underwater drones for the U.S. Navy, as well as weather data-gathering buoys for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. While at that company, he collaborated with Charles River Analytics (CRA), a company that made software for the LBI drones. Sparks was eventually hired by CRA in January 2012, but before he switched jobs, he saved sensitive company and military information—including renderings and design photos of LBI drones and buoys—onto the cloud-storage service Dropbox, according to DOJ.

It’s a good reminder to avoid saving internal documents when you leave your place of employment to work for a competitor—especially if both of those companies are contractors for the U.S. military.

[U.S. Department of Justice via Engadget]