Malicious Coders - InformationWeek
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12/22/2006
01:07 PM
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Malicious Coders

Over the course of my rather long and varied journalistic career, I've been laid off five times (usually because the magazine in question was shut down) and have survived two or three others, so I'm not unfamiliar with the anger and angst that can accompany that process. However, that doesn't mean I've got any sympathy whatsoever with the fool who reportedly planted a logic bomb in Medco Health Solutions' com

Over the course of my rather long and varied journalistic career, I've been laid off five times (usually because the magazine in question was shut down) and have survived two or three others, so I'm not unfamiliar with the anger and angst that can accompany that process. However, that doesn't mean I've got any sympathy whatsoever with the fool who reportedly planted a logic bomb in Medco Health Solutions' computer system.According to news reports, the systems administrator, afraid he was going to be caught up in a company-wide layoff, planted the bomb to go off on his birthday. He was not laid off, but when it turned out his code had an error that prevented it from detonating, he reset it for the following year. It was caught by a colleague.

The malicious code would not have only wiped out financial information, but the records that pharmacists use to make sure that there are no dangerous combinations among the drugs that a patient is taking. This is not just a case of database-related identity theft, where the victims have to spend months or years handling the financial fallout -- although that is bad enough. This could have affected the health and the lives of hundreds of people who had nothing to do with Medco's business tactics.

A lawyer for the sysadmin has stated that her client was actually trying to develop a program to automatically erase data. Perhaps. But whether he is guilty or not, this story is a reminder to all of us who work in technology that our work often has more far-reaching consequences than the bleeding-edge hardware and elegant code that we tend to focus on.

On a more pleasant note, I hope that you're all enjoying a happy and healthy holiday season.

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