Hungarian man tried to hack, blackmail hotel into job

A Hungarian man's attempt to blackmail a U.S. hotel chain into giving him a job landed him in U.S. custody, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

Attila Nemeth, 26, pleaded guilty to hacking the computer system of Marriott International Corp. and threatening to release the company's proprietary information unless the chain gave him a job maintaining the company's computer system, according to a statement by Maryland's U.S. Attorney's Office. Marriott is headquartered in Montgomery County.

In November 2010, Nemeth sent a computer virus via email to Marriott employees that gave him access to confidential information on the corporation's servers. He threatened to release these private documents unless the company gave him a job.

A few days after threatening the company, at least one U.S. Secret Service agent posed as a Marriott human resources employee and communicated with Nemeth over the Internet. Nemeth continued threatening the release of private documents unless he was offered a job.

He emailed the undercover agent a copy of his Hungarian passport and said he would travel to the U.S. to meet with Marriott about job opportunities.

About two months later, Marriott paid to fly Nemeth to the U.S. for an "employment interview." During the undercover meeting, Nemeth described how he hacked the company's computers and threatened to release secret information.

Nemeth was taken into custody and remains in detention. Marriott estimates that it spent more than $400,000 to remedy its compromised computer network.

Nemeth could go to prison for up to 10 years for hacking the company's computer systems, prosecutors said, and he faces five years for threatening to release confidential company information. His sentencing is scheduled for February.