Developers Gone Bad: Fired Programmers Strike Back...With Nasty Code
Sometimes programers get fired. And some of those individuals try to exact their revenge.
Programmers get fired for all kinds of reasons -- and some of them are quite strange.
But one thing about coders: They can retaliate against their former employers in a big way, more so than any other type of worker. There are all kinds of stories about developers planting viruses, destroying data, stealing secrets and causing all kinds of electronic mayhem after being shown the door.
Check out our hall-of-fame listing of good coders (or IT workers with coding skills) gone bad.
Rajendrasinh Babubhai Makwana
This guy was a Unix engineer who was fired by mortgage giant Fannie Mae for writing a bad script. In retaliation, he dropped a "logic bomb." Specifically, he was canned after he "erroneously created a computer script that changed the settings on the Unix servers without the proper authority of his supervisor," said an FBI complaint.
A contractor for about two years, Makwana worked up another script shortly before his last day. This one "was designed to propagate throughout the Fannie Mae network of computers and destroy all data, including financial, securities and mortgage information," it was reported.
Another engineer found the malicious script before it could do any damage. Even so, Makwana was indicted, convicted and sentenced "to spend three years, five months behind bars for computer intrusion."
Wow. Forty-one months in the slammer for a sabotage attempt. Imagine what he would've gotten had his nefarious plot succeeded.
Technically a network administrator (possessing some coding skill), this longtime employee of Omega Engineering "destroyed the company's network" after he was "fired for performance and behavioral problems."
Playing out like a detective novel, Lloyd was eventually caught after a long investigation by the Secret Service and others, and was sentenced to his own 41 months in prison (that must have set the precedent for Makwana's case).
Donald Gene Burleson
The granddaddy of pernicious programmers who refused to go quietly into that dark night, this 39-year-old coder way back in 1988 was "believed to be the first person convicted of planting a computer 'virus,' " according to this New York Times article, complete with a helpful explanation of what a "computer virus" is.
Burleson got seven years of probation and had to pay almost $12,000 in restitution after he was convicted of deleting "more than 168,000 records of sales commissions for employees" at Texas securities firm USPA&IRA Co. two days after the company fired him.
Claude R. Carpenter II
A 20-year-old contractor working for the IRS, this guy "was facing dismissal and had been reprimanded for repeated lateness" when he snooped around and found a dismissal letter on his supervisor's computer. Instead of waiting for the axe to fall, he "inserted destructive code into three network servers, destroying many of their files."
Adding insult to injury, he also rigged his boss's computer to send him nasty messages when he next logged on.
Apparently being a proficient programmer doesn't necessarily impart intelligence in other areas -- such as covering your tracks -- because Carpenter "periodically telephoned the computer system administrator over the next two weeks…to ask whether 'anything was wrong with the servers.'"
That brilliant move resulted in a conviction, 15-month prison term and $108,000 in fines.
Talk about grumpiness, this systems administrator didn't even get fired. He was just upset over his "meager" annual bonus, of only $32,000. So the 63-year-old former programmer actually quit his $125,000 job (apparently the economy and job prospects were a bit brighter back in 2002) and reportedly planted a "logic bomb" that crashed some 2,000 (some reports say 1,000) computers of employer UBS Paine Webber. The company claimed some $3 million in damages.
Duronio reportedly headed to his broker after planting the bomb and bet $23,000 that the stock of his employer's parent company would drop steeply after his payload detonated and wreaked havoc on the networks. But according to trial testimony, "the stock remained stable after the logic bomb was unleashed, and Duronio lost all of his $23,000 investment."
But he did get a 97-month federal prison term for his trouble.
Do you have any juicy stories of disgruntled programmers retaliating against employers? Let us know in the comments or drop us a line.
David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.