Palmetto woman gets 18 months in prison for hacking former employer

TAMPA -- A Palmetto woman today was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for hacking into a former employer's computer system and causing about $17,000 in damage, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Patricia Marie Fowler, 30, was also ordered to pay $17,243.01 in restitution and to be placed on supervised release for three years after her release from prison.

According to trial testimony, Fowler made numerous unauthorized intrusions into the computer system for Suncoast Community Health Centers in Ruskin, which provides health care to low-income residents. An information technology technician, Fowler had been fired from the organization on March 13, 2009, for insubordination and failing to follow instructions from supervisors, according to a news release.

Four days later, the hacking began and continued through April 1, 2009. During the intrusions, Fowler deleted and moved files, changed administrative account names and passwords, removed access to infrastructure systems, changed pay and accrued leave rates on the employee payroll system and compromised the firewall used to protect the SCHC's computer network, according to the release.

In interviews with the FBI, Fowler eventually admitted she was responsible for the hacking, officials said.