A former home security technician was sentenced by a U.S. district judge to 52 months in federal prison for repeatedly hacking into customers’ video feeds in North Texas.
Telesforo Aviles, a 35-year old former ADT employee, pleaded guilty to computer fraud in January. He was sentenced on Thursday, June 9, by U.S. District Judge Brantley Starr.
“The disgust and violation I feel, knowing that Aviles watched me in my most intimate moments, is only a fraction of the outrage I feel knowing he watched my young son,” one female victim told the court in an impact statement.
ADT tech spies on customers
Plea papers show that Aviles admitted that he routinely added his personal email address to customers’ “ADT Pulse” accounts. ADT Pulse allows homeowners to remotely control their security system and smart devices using an app on their phones.
By adding his account, Aviles gave himself real-time access to video feeds from customers’ homes.
Aviles also admitted that he repeatedly logged into accounts of those who have attractive women at home to view their footage for sexual gratification. According to the plea papers, Aviles watched numerous videos of naked women and couple engaging in sexual activity inside their homes.
“He was logged on to my bedroom camera five times a day,” Sarah Freele, one of Aviles’s victims, told Starr at the sentencing hearing in Dallas. “He saw it all … every intimate moment.”
Over a period of roughly four and a half years, he secretly accessed around 200 customer accounts more than 9,600 times without their consent, Aviles admitted. (Related: Beware “smart spies:” Google and Amazon products can be hacked and used to eavesdrop on users or steal data, warn researchers.)
Aviles was caught last year after the company was alerted of suspicious activity by a customer, according to his lawyer, Tom Pappas. Aviles, who has a wife and five children, turned himself in when he was asked to, Pappas said.
“He’s mortified by what he did,” Pappas said. “He sees what he did as a betrayal of himself, too.”
Pappas confirmed that of the nearly 10,000 images Aviles accessed, about 40 were “sexual in nature” and none involved children.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sid Mody had asked Starr to give Aviles the maximum sentence. He said that while 217 accounts were accessed, the total number of victims is much higher since each household had multiple family members. Mody said that Aviles’s violation destroyed their sense of feeling safe and secure at home “in the worst way.”
“That’s going to affect them for the rest of their lives,” Mody told the judge.
ADT sued for security breaches
For its part, ADT is currently facing two federal class-action lawsuits in connection with Aviles’s breaches.
The lawsuits claim that the company showed negligence and breached contracts by failing to provide security, among other concerns. Both suits point to how Aviles could view customers’ private and intimate moments.
“Moments once believed to be private and inside the sanctity of the home are now voyeuristic entertainment for a third party,” the lawsuits say. “And worse, those moments could have been captured, shared with others, or even posted to the internet.”
Both lawsuits were filed in Florida, where ADT is headquartered. One of the suits was filed in behalf of account holders. The other covers people who lived in a household that is compromised, but doesn’t have an account with ADT, including roommates and minors.
Both lawsuits seek in excess of $5 million each.
In response to the suits, ADT said that it has implemented procedures to prevent similar incidents from taking place – including sending notifications to customers when users are added to their accounts.
“We took immediate action and put measures in place to prevent this from happening again,” the company said in a statement. “We deeply regret what happened to the 220 customers affected by this incident and have contacted them to help resolve their concerns. We are supporting law enforcement’s investigation of the former employee and are committed to helping bring justice to those impacted by his improper actions.”
Attorneys for the plaintiffs are concerned that the incident may not have been isolated to a single employee. They say that the lawsuits allow for other affected individuals to come forward.
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