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Jury convicts programmer of planting Fannie Mae server bomb

Faces 10 years in prison for trying to erase data on nearly 5,000 servers

October 7, 2010 12:52 PM ET

Computerworld - A programmer who worked for the Federal National Mortgage Association, better known as Fannie Mae, was convicted Monday on a charge that he tried to destroy data on the organization's nearly 5,000 servers.

Rajendrasinh Babubhai Makwana, 36, was found guilty by a federal jury on a single charge of computer intrusion, according to court filings, and statements by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney in Maryland.

Makwana was fired from his contract position at Fannie Mae's Urbana, Md. data center on Oct. 24, 2008. Five days later, Fannie Mae engineers uncovered a malicious script -- dubbed a "server bomb" -- tucked into a routine that executed every morning on all Fannie Mae's servers.

The malware bomb was to go off Jan. 31, 2009, when it would spread throughout Fannie Mae's servers and networks, destroying all data, including financial, securities and mortgage information. Anyone who tried to log onto the network after 9:00 a.m. on that date would see the message "Server Graveyard," according to a sworn statement by FBI Special Agent Jessica Nye last year.

Fannie Mae programmers traced the malicious script to Makwana through network logs, and by comparing the contents of a directory that Makwana created on his laptop the day he was terminated.

Makwana's employment record was a matter of some confusion last year, with various contractors denying that he worked for them, but was instead a "pass-through" employee paid by another company.

IonIdea, an IT contractor with offices in the Washington D.C. area, acknowledged that it had billed Fannie Mae for Makwana's work, but argued that Makwana was actually employed by yet another firm, N.J.-based Marlabs.

Makwana, an Indian national, did not testify at his trial, which ran five days during a stretch between Sept. 27 and Oct. 4. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and is currently free on bond pending a Dec. 8 sentencing hearing.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at Twitter @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed Keizer RSS. His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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