Former Medco SysAdmin Gets 30 Months for 'Logic Bomb'

The government says it believes the 30-month sentence is the longest to date for an attempt to damage computer systems.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

January 9, 2008

2 Min Read

A former systems administrator for Medco Health Solutions was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison on Tuesday for planting a "logic bomb" in Medco's computer systems.

Yung-Hsun Lin, 51, of Montville, N.J., intended to "detonate" a logic bomb to destroy data on some 70 servers, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

A logic bomb is simply malicious code that does something bad when the programmed conditions are met. Lin's indictment uses a less-loaded term: destructive code.

"Among other information, the Destructive Code was designed to delete [Medco's Drug Utilization Review database], as well as databases identifying subscribers, plan coverage, prescription administration, and billing data," court documents say. "Part of the new computer code Defendant Lin programmed and inserted included a script designed to deploy the Destructive Code automatically on April 23, 2004, Defendant Lin's birthday."

Lin did so, court documents indicate, because he became concerned in late 2003 that he would be laid off in the wake of a corporate restructuring.

Though Lin was not laid off when four other systems administrators in the company were let go, he edited the malicious code, apparently still intending to have it delete company data.

"On or about April 23, 2004, the Destructive Code was triggered, but because of an error in the code, it failed to deploy and delete the information stored on the Medco Servers," Lin's indictment explains.

Lin subsequently edited the code so that it would execute on April 23, 2005. But other Medco IT personnel discovered the hidden scripts and removed them.

The government says it believes Lin's 30-month sentence is the longest to date for an attempt to damage computer systems. Lin has also been ordered to pay $81,200 in restitution.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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