A contract programmer faces 10 years in jail for inserting a logic bomb into a spreadsheet

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A contract programmer has pleaded guilty to a federal crime, and he faces up to 10 years in jail and up to a $250,000 fine.

He had planted a "logic bomb" in a system that caused glitches in the system he built for his client every few years - forcing his employer to be dependent on him to fix each new problem.

His logic bomb was apparently discovered when the program glitched while he was on vacation, and he had to give employees the password so they could fix it.

We've heard of programmers who secretly automated their jobs, but here's a darker tale of a contract programmer who tried to force his employer to be dependent on him. Now, he's facing up to 10 years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $250,000.

David Tinley, 62, pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of intentional damage to a protected computer, the US Attorney's Office of the Western District of Pennsylvania said in a press release.

Tinley had been hired by a US unit of Siemens, the German-based tech conglomerate, to create custom automated spreadsheets. The company used these spreadsheets to manage orders for electrical equipment.

Tinley planted "logic bombs" in the spreadsheets, the government alleged. Logic bombs are bits of malicious code that disrupt the program when specific conditions are met, like a specific time on a specific date.

In this case, the logic bombs were timed to go off every few years, the government alleged, causing the spreadsheet to experience glitches like error messages and size changes to on-screen buttons, according to a report from Law360.

When the program glitched, the company would bring Tinley back in to fix it. He fixed the system by pushing back the date the spreadsheets would stop working again, the government said.

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