The cutthroat competition between two Bay Area school lunch contractors reached a new low when the personal data of hundreds of schoolchildren were stolen in a bid to expose a competitor’s lack of data security.
School lunches are a $14 billion a year industry and some 30 million students are served every school day, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Kieren McCarthy filed this report on the high-stakes world of school lunches for The Register:
Chief financial officer of Choicelunch, Keith Wesley Cosbey, 40, was collared last month over claims that he illegally grabbed details from competitor The LunchMaster on what precisely youngsters across the San Francisco Bay Area like to eat and are allergic to.
He has been charged with unlawful computer access and fraud, and identity theft. If found guilty, Cosbey faces up to three years behind bars.
According to the criminal complaint against him, filed in San Mateo County, Cosbey stole data on hundreds of students, and then sent it anonymously to the local government department that oversees the school lunch program in an apparent effort to undermine his competitor.
The approach backfired, though, when the California Department of Education contacted The LunchMaster about the data leak, and the company searched its access logs, it is claimed. It apparently tracked the intrusion down to an IP address associated with Danville, California – where Choicelunch is headquartered.
The LunchMaster then contacted the FBI, the San Francisco Chronicle reported today, which carried out an investigated before nabbing Cosbey last month. He is currently out on $125,000 bail, and is due to appear in court on May 22. The news of his arrest emerged after The LunchMaster was given permission to notify the families of the students whose data has been accessed.
Amazingly, this is not the only time that the two companies have been at loggerheads. Back in 2013, Choicelunch sued The LunchMaster for copyright infringement and unfair competition, claiming the biz copied its website design and software.