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.