Programmer Rejects $70k Bonus, Is Charged With Online Attack

Trade processor's service disrupted three days

A database programmer who rejected a $70,000 cash bonus and $50,000 in stock options has been arrested for allegedly attacking his company's computer system after the firm rejected his counteroffer.

Abdelkader Smires, 31, an employee at Internet Trading Technologies Corp. (ITTI) in New York, was being held without bail last week for allegedly launching a denial-of-service attack against the firm.

ITTI's software system, which allows securities firms to trade stocks online, was disrupted for three days, beginning March 9.

"This company processes a very large percentage of the Nasdaq trades, so I would say this had the potential to be very disruptive," said Eric Friedberg, computer and telecommunications crime coordinator at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Friedberg said ITTI came under attack the same day Smires and another programmer backed out of an agreement for a higher salary and more equity in the firm. The conflict started March 6, when Smires' supervisor, ITTI's chief development officer, resigned from the company. ITTI hired systems consultants to take his place, but Smires and the other programmer refused to train the contractors on ITTI's systems, Friedberg said.

Smires and the second programmer, who hasn't been charged, threatened to quit unless the firm increased their compensation and offered more job security, Friedberg said. ITTI offered raises, stock options and one-year contracts, but the two chose to resign.

According to the affidavit filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn, the pair demanded an immediate payment of $70,000, plus $50,000 in stock options and more substantial pay raises. A tentative agreement was reached March 8, but the programmers backed out the next day and pressed for more favorable terms.

ITTI executives failed to respond to their counteroffer, and later that day, the firm's computer system came under attack from a PC at a Kinko's copy shop in Manhattan.

The attacks on ITTI continued through March 12, and investigators were contacted to locate the perpetrator. The U.S. Secret Service's Electronic Crimes Task Force, which comprises 25 local, state and federal agencies and 45 private companies, tracked Smires down to a computer at the Queens College campus in Flushing, N.Y., where Smires is an instructor.

"He and the other programmer were involved in writing the software, so he knew just where to attack. He was fully familiar with weaknesses in the code," said Friedberg. "Although it was a potentially disastrous attack, it wasn't a highly sophisticated attack." Friedberg said the IP address of the attacking computer wasn't transmitted in a capturable form but was visible during the attack, allowing ITTI to locate the Kinko's machine in real time.

Because Smires apparently failed to cover his tracks by routing the attack through

another server, investigators were able to track him to Queens College. "Ten minutes after the defendant had left the building, we were able to find a witness and find out who had sat at this computer 10 minutes (earlier)," said Friedberg.

ITTI wasn't available for comment on the incident.

Copyright © 2000 IDG Communications, Inc.

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