Former Franklin Regional student pleads guilty in 2016 cyber attack case |

Former Franklin Regional student pleads guilty in 2016 cyber attack case

Rich Cholodofsky
Michaela G. King
Michaela G. King Michaela G. King

A former Franklin Regional High School student pleaded guilty Monday to launching a cyber attack on the school’s computer network that disrupted servers at more than a dozen other local school districts and government offices.

Police said Michaela G. King, 21, of Murrysville, was a high school senior in November 2016 when she downloaded a computer program on to the school’s system and caused it to crash. Franklin Regional’s network was linked to other school district computers and Westmoreland County government systems which also caused disruptions of their systems.

King offered no explanations for her actions in court Monday.

“We look forward to putting forward the proper context and a more complete picture of what happened and why it happened,” said defense attorney Lyle Dresbold.

King pleaded guilty to the unlawful use of a computer and disruption of service, both which are felony counts.

Assistant District Attorney Anthony Iannamorelli said the prosecution will recommend King serve a sentence that includes probation and some time on house arrest. Dresbold said he will ask that King serve a probation sentence without house arrest.

Common Pleas Court Judge Tim Krieger will sentence King later. The judge said that because no plea bargain deal was reached, he could accept sentencing recommendations or impose a penalty that might include jail. King faces a maximum sentence of seven years in prison, Krieger said.

Police said King bought an online computer program and downloaded on to the Franklin Regional servers, causing data to flood the computer network. The disruption impacted a central server system supplied by the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit that included the Derry Area, Greater Latrobe, Greensburg-Salem, Ligonier Valley, Kiski Area, Burrell, Jeannette, Greensburg Central Catholic, Monessen and Hempfield school districts, as well as the Greensburg Catholic Diocese and Westmoreland County government.

An Illinois man last month pleaded guilty to federal charges that he sold the program used by King and others between 2015-17 that were designed to disrupt computer services.

Sergiy P. Usatyuk, 20, of Orland Park, Ill., and a co-conspirator developed, controlled and operated a number of computer programs and websites sold to hackers such as King. Federal authorities said Usatyuk earned $550,000 from charging subscriber fees to paying customers computer services and sold advertising space to other operators who peddled hacking software, according to the justice department.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.