A former employee of New York-based Ubiquiti Inc was arrested Wednesday on charges of stealing confidential data from the wireless technology company and using it to demand nearly $2 million in ransom, federal prosecutors said.
Nickolas Sharp, 36, was arrested in Portland, Oregon, where he lives. He faces an indictment in federal court in Manhattan. The most serious charge against him, wire fraud, carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Sharp’s attorney, Nick Wooldridge, could not immediately be reached for comment.
According to the indictment, Sharp in December 2020 repeatedly downloaded gigabytes of confidential data from his employer, using a virtual private network to mask his location. In January, he sent a ransom note to the company posing as an anonymous hacker and demanding 50 Bitcoin, then worth about $1.9 million, in exchange for returning the stolen data and revealing a purported security vulnerability in the company’s systems, prosecutors said.
When the company refused, Sharp published some of the stolen information, according to prosecutors.
In March, Sharp, posing as an anonymous whistleblower, falsely told media outlets that the data had been stolen by an unidentified hacker, according to the indictment. Following the publication of several news stories about the breach, Ubiquiti’s stock fell about 20%, wiping out about $4 billion of its market capitalization.