Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for January 8th, 2007

Computer logic bombs and journalistic logic flaws

Posted by metaphorical on 8 January 2007

What exactly is Yung-Hsun Lin guilty of, if anything?

Lin, a sysadmin at Medco Health Solutions Inc., an on-line and mail-order pharmacy based in Franklin Lakes, N.J., is accused of setting a computer “logic bomb” that “would have “wiped out critical data stored on more than 70 servers.”

According to a TechWeb story of 6 January,

Had the logic bomb gone off, prosecutors say, it would have eliminated pharmacists’ ability to know whether Medco customers’ new prescriptions would interact dangerously with their current prescriptions. It also would have damaged the company financially, they say.

The story says that a co-worker “found the so-called logic bomb before it went off.” A U.S. Dept of Justice news release back on 19 December says:

The logic bomb initially failed to “detonate” on the intended day, was allegedly modified by the defendant to execute again, but was then detected by the company and neutralized.

A look at the alleged facts, though, leaves one a bit puzzled. Lin may be guilty of a crime, but it’s not entirely clear what the crime is and how the government is picturing it to have occurred. Let’s look first at exactly what Lin is accused of. From the DOJ release:

Lin is charged with two counts of fraud related to activity in connection with computers—one count for exceeding authorized access with intent to cause damage in excess of $5,000, the other for the impairment, or potential impairment, of the medical examination, diagnosis, treatment or medical care of one or more individuals.

That’s a nice chunk of legalese to parse, but it seems that an essential precondition of each count is that the “logic bomb” was active and set to go off on a particular date.

But was the bomb active, and, if so, when?

A look at the Feds’ case, represented in a very nice timeline in the TechWeb story, makes one wonder.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in journalism, technology | 1 Comment »