FBI San Francisco
San Francisco Media Office
December 12, 2016

USC Graduate Student Charged with Computer Intrusion

Sean Sharma, a 26-year-old graduate student at the University of Southern California, appeared in U.S. District Court after being arrested on an indictment for transmission of a program, information, code, and command to cause damage to a protected computer [18 U.S.C. §§ 1030(a)(5)(A) & (c)(4)(A)(i)(I)] December 9, 2016.

According to the indictment, Sharma, a computer science graduate student, allegedly purchased a tool to conduct distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against a chat service company located in San Francisco, California. Between November 6, 2014, and January 20, 2015, Sharma allegedly unleashed the DDoS tool, causing losses of more than $5,000.

Sharma was arrested in La Canada, California by the FBI December 9, 2016. Following his arrest, Sharma made his initial appearance in federal court in Los Angeles before before the Honorable Alka Sagar, U.S. Magistrate Judge, Central District of California. He was released on a $100,000 bond. Sharma is next scheduled to appear on December 16, 2016, before the Honorable Jacqueline Scott Corley, U.S. Magistrate Judge, Northern District of California for arraignment. If convicted, Sharma faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison, three years of supervised release, and/or a fine. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence.

The case is being prosecuted by the Computer Hacking/Intellectual Property Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s San Francisco Division.