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Akamai employee tried to sell secrets to Israel

A staffer in the finance department tried to sell client information, contracts and even an employee list

A 43-year-old former Akamai employee has pleaded guilty to espionage charges after offering to hand over confidential information about the Web acceleration company to an agent posing as an Israeli consular official in Boston.

Starting in September 2007, Elliot Doxer played an elaborate 18-month-long game of cloak-and-dagger with James Cromer, a man he thought was an Israeli intelligence officer. He handed over pages and pages of confidential data to Cromer, providing a list of Akamai's clients and contracts, information about the company's security practices, and even a list of 1,300 Akamai employees, including mobile numbers, departments and e-mail addresses. Doxer delivered the information to a dead drop box, a predetermined location set up by Cromer where both of them could drop off documents for each other without actually meeting.

His motivation was to help Israel and to get information on his son and estranged wife, who lived outside the U.S., prosecutors said in court filings.

Unbeknownst to Doxer, his Israeli spy was actually a special agent with the counterintelligence squad at the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's Pittsburgh field office. In October 2010, Doxer was arrested and charged with committing foreign economic espionage. He pleaded guilty on Tuesday, becoming only the eighth person ever to be prosecuted in the U.S. for trying to sell corporate secrets to foreign governments.

According to Akamai, there's no evidence that Doxer ever managed to sell his secrets to anyone other than federal agents. Doxer's lawyer didn't immediately respond to messages seeking comment Tuesday.

Doxer worked in the finance department at Akamai's Boston headquarters. Apparently out of the blue, he decided to send an e-mail to Israel's Boston consulate on June 22, 2006, writing, "I am a jewish american who lives in Boston. I know you are always looking for information and i am offering the little i may have."

When Cromer contacted him a few years later, Doxer quickly began delivering information. He visited the dead drop box 62 times in the next 18 months, authorities said. He asked for US$3,000 for the data. He also asked for information about his son, and he made this rather ominous comment about his estranged wife: "His mother is a terrible human being and has caused me tremendous suffering. Not enough bad things can happen to her if you know what I mean."

Doxer faces 15 years in prison on the charges.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com


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