Most computer programmers, we can assume, use their vast technical knowledge for good, and let me just say — whoever created the “document recovery” feature in Microsoft Word: thank you from all of us who can’t be bothered to click save, even in a thunderstorm.
But despite all the life- and work-saving computer programmers out there, there are, of course, a few bad apples. And sometimes, their nefarious deeds are so clever, you almost want them to get away with it. Almost.
This next story involves a programmer, David Tinley, who was doing contract work for the industrial giant Siemens. Siemens had reportedly hired Tinley to produce customized spreadsheets that incorporated automation in order to help the company manage orders for its electrical equipment.
But what Siemens didn’t know — at least not right away — was that Tinley was inserting what are called “logic bombs” into the spreadsheets in the way of “malicious code” that would disrupt the way they worked after a certain amount of time. The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Pennsylvania, who is prosecuting the case on behalf of the government, said Tinley orchestrated the malfunctions so Siemens would have to bring him back in to fix them. According to Business Insider, he was busted when one of the logic bombs went off while he was on vacation, forcing him to cough up his passwords, at which point other programmers discovered the logic bombs.
Tinley has pled guilty is now facing a fine as high as $250,000 and up to 10 years in prison, but he says he really wasn’t intending to make Siemens become dependent on his work so he could keep getting paid. He claims he was instead simply protecting his proprietary work.