Two Security Testers Arrested for Doing Their Job

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Two employees of a Colorado-based cybersecurity company were arrested by a sheriff in Iowa for doing their job -- testing the physical and cybersecurity of state and local buildings based on a contract with the state.

Despite an explanation by security provider Coalfire to local law enforcement, the two men still face trespassing charges. Coalfire employees Gary Demercurio and Justin Wynn, who were tasked with testing cybersecurity technology at the Dallas County courthouse, broke into the facility at night and were apprehended and charged with burglary by the Sheriff’s Office. While the burglary charges have been downgraded to trespassing, Coalfire still wants all charges dropped.

“I mean it’s very common, we do hundreds of these a year,” said Tom McAndrew, Coalfire’s chief executive, told CBS News in Denver. “Myself, I’ve done these many times over the past two decades.”

The difference in the Iowa incident is the sheriff claimed he didn’t know about Coalfire’s contract with the state. Iowa officials admitted it wasn’t clear that physical and electronic testing were part of the arrangement. And, there was some confusion about testing at state and local facilities. That included the courthouse where Demercurio and Wynn were arrested.

Potential Tragedy Averted?

The miscommunication could have resulted in serious harm to the Coalfire employees because law enforcement wasn’t notified, according to the sheriff. “It could have ended very poorly, five deputies potentially killing two people in a courthouse,” Sheriff Chad Leonard testified before lawmakers in Iowa, the media outlet reported. “It could have ended a lot worse.”

The same two employees broke into another courthouse but no charges were filed, a Des Moines, Iowa CBS outlet reported. “In our efforts to protect Iowans from cyber attacks, mistakes were made,” said Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady, the station reported. “We are doing everything we can to make sure they never occur again.”

In the meantime, Coalfire has covered legal costs to spring Demercurio and Wynn from jail, McAndrew told the Denver CBS outlet. “I just would like to see some common sense injected into this and that just doesn’t seem to be happening from our perspective,” he said.

D. Howard Kass

D. Howard Kass is a contributing editor to MSSP Alert. He brings a career in journalism and market research to the role. He has served as CRN News Editor, Dataquest Channel Analyst, and West Coast Senior Contributing Editor at Channelnomics. As the CEO of The Viewpoint Group, he led groundbreaking market research.