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Programmer David Tinley Jailed For Forcing Dependency On Employer

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A contract programmer in the US, David Tinley, has been jailed for 10 years for forcing his employer to be dependent on him. He inserted a code in a spreadsheet that caused the company to keep rehiring him to fix it.


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62-year-old David Tinley has now pleaded guilty in an American federal court to intentional damage to a protected computer charge. He was hired by the US arm of German-based tech company Siemens to created automated spreadsheets. These custom spreadsheets were actually used to manage electrical equipment orders.




The US government alleges that Tinley planted the flaw referred to as ‘logic bombs’ in the spreadsheets. Logic Bombs are a form of code inserted into software on purpose to sort of blackmail a victim. For example, a programmer hid a piece of code in the spreadsheet that will automatically delete files when he gets fired from the company.


‘Logic Bombs’

What Tinley did however was to automate the logic bombs to go off every few years. This caused the spreadsheets to get error messages, and the on-screen buttons experienced glitches that caused it to change sizes. Each time this happened, the company had to bring him back to fix the flaw. Tinley will then fix the system by pushing the logic bomb date forward again. This way, it was only a matter of time before the spreadsheets stopped working again.


Logic Bomb David Tinley


The law caught up with him in 2016 when he was on holiday. Siemens had put an urgent order on the spreadsheet which started having problems again as usual. Tinley was then forced to share his password with employees who finally figured out the logic bomb.


In his defence, the programmer’s lawyers argued that he did not make any money from being rehired. They explained that he was only doing it because he wanted to protect his job. However, the company believed that this act had cost the company about $42,000 (₦15.2 million).

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