Police Charge Microsoft Worker With Stealing Data

Gretchen Gallen
SUNNYVALE, Calif. – Search engine Alta Vista reached a victory Friday with the arrest of a Microsoft Corp. employee accused of stealing its corporate data. Alta Vista is owned by Microsoft competitor Overture Services, Inc., which is owned by Yahoo, Inc.

Laurent Chavet, formerly an employee with Alta Vista, was arrested and charged with stealing information from his former employer through unauthorized access to the Alta Vista network. Chavet is a French citizen.

Friday\'s arrest adds to the high level of corporate tension between Yahoo and Microsoft\'s search service MSN, which in recent months have proven themselves to be formidable rivals along with leading search company Google.

The indictment was issued by the U.S. District Court of Northern California. Chavet was released on a $10,000 bond. The arraignment is scheduled for July 20.

According to an FBI affidavit, the charges stem from an incident in 2002 just before Chavet was hired by Microsoft and just after he left Alta Vista.

There is some speculation that Chavet\'s theft of Alta Vista source code was related to the rivalry between MSN and Yahoo, although nothing has yet been confirmed. There are also reports that Chavet was already part of MSN\'s research team before his official hire date.

The indictment says that Chavet accessed Alta Vista\'s network in March of 2002 and June 2002.

The FBI issued a search warrant for Chavet\'s apartment in San Mateo, Calif. on Oct. 7, 2002 and seized hard drives, CDs, Floppy disks, and other forms of electronic storage devices, says the FBI affadivit.

When Chavet was questioned by investigators, he claimed that he had accessed Alta Vista\'s network without authorization via a friend\'s password because he was curious about the \"evolution\" of his source code project after his departure.

Chavet had originally been hired by Alta Vista to program source code.

FBI officials would not say whether the Chavet case will include an additional investigation into whether any Alta Vista source code was used by the MSN search engine.

Neither companies were available for comment.