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Programmer jailed three years over plot to wipe out all of Fannie Mae’s financial data

By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, December 31, 2010 11:12 EDT
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A computer programmer who almost succeeded in wiping out all of the Federal National Mortgage Association’s financial data at the height of the housing market crash was sentenced to three years in prison earlier this month.

Rajendrasinh Babubhai Makwana, 36, worked as a contractor with the home mortgage lender, better known as Fannie Mae, from 2006 through Oct. 2008. He was abruptly fired for writing an erroneous piece of software code that changed settings on the company’s Unix servers without proper authorization.

Ordered to turn in his equipment and security badge on Oct. 24, 2008, Makwana, a foreign national from India, complied and returned to his workstation to finish out the day. His administrative access to the company’s 4,000 servers, however, was not terminated until that evening.

In the interim, sometime between 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., Makwana created a potentially devastating logic bomb script that authorities claimed would have wiped out all of the home lender’s financial data, causing untold damage to the US financial system and erasing the mortgages of millions of homeowners.

The software was set to auto-execute on Jan. 31, 2009 — but that never happened.

Instead, on Oct. 29, a senior Unix engineer found the code embedded below a legitimate script. The two scripts were separated by about a page of blank lines, according to a criminal complaint (PDF) filed with a US district court in Maryland by FBI Special Agent Jessica Nye.

The script would have disabled all server login attempts and blocked the company’s server monitoring systems. Any effort to access the network would have resulted in a message that read “Server Graveyard,” the complaint said. It would have also erased log files, ensuring Makwana’s trail would not be followed.

When the script was discovered days later, Fannie Mae’s IT department went into full emergency mode, locking down their servers to ensure no other malicious scripts had been inserted. A criminal complaint was soon to follow.

Makwana was convicted on October 4, 2010, and faced up to 10 years in jail. He was sentenced to 41 months in prison on December 17 by US District Judge J. Fredrick Motz.

His professional profile on business networking website LinkedIn was still available and featured a small image of Makwana apparently skydiving.

“Computer intrusion cases are a high priority for federal law enforcement because of the potential to cause serious damage,” US Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said, according to a US Department of Justice advisory. “Mr. Makwana was trusted with access to the computer system, and he violated that trust.”

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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  • Anonymous

    In response to Muneca:
    You do not deserve to be a juror if you are going to work with heart, feelings and sympathy. There is no place for mercy or pity in american justice. Normally, judge gives instructions about that and suspect’s testimony. This is a criminal case, so suspect might have used his Sixth amendment right about not to testify, which should not be taken in wrong way by jurors. I performed jury duty 5-6 years back and still remembers there are 2 spare alternate jurors. So, if you were not confident enough about delivering fair verdict then you should have withdrawn and given chance to alternate jurors.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2GZUDK55JMGYN6GJWJAKZEOJQU Otiswhittaker Daniel

    In response to Muneca:
    You do not deserve to be a juror if you are going to work with heart, feelings and sympathy. There is no place for mercy or pity in american justice. Normally, judge gives instructions about that and suspect’s testimony. This is a criminal case, so suspect might have used his Sixth amendment right about not to testify, which should not be taken in wrong way by jurors. I performed jury duty 5-6 years back and still remembers there are 2 spare alternate jurors. So, if you were not confident enough about delivering fair verdict then you should have withdrawn and given chance to alternate jurors.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_M24ESNC3QI3D4AR5EJOZBLT2AA babubhai

    My son is innocent and he has not done anything wrong. Media/reporters are only talking one side of story and copy pasting from different sites without any clue to spice up. All websites are writing my son wrote some letters, we don’t even know what they are referring to. Neither, government or FBI provided any copy of such letter.

    My son did not get competent effective counsel assistance. The court assigned lawyer did not spent time to understand the case or its technical complexity. No technical issues were raised. Nor the attorney understood simple exhibits like cell phone bill, shop receipts etc which shows my son away during the crime time. Still the defense counsel, court are in impression that the crime of composing the script was committed in one hour period time, which is false. If you study the logs/FBI report, the activity of my son’s username exist late night, when he was not there.

    My son found new evidence after the trial was concluded, which clearly indicates he has not done this conduct. He found this evidence in the discovery report received less than 24 hrs before commence of trial. He filed new trial motion and 2255 habeas corpus motions, but all his new motions are getting dismissed. Trial court says, he has to wait, for the appeal court to rule on direct appeal. The exhibits and newly discovered evidences that my son provided, if proved and viewed in light of the evidence as a whole, would be sufficient to establish by clear and
    convincing evidence that no reasonable fact finder would have found my son guilty of the offense. My younger daughter also, tried requesting US Attorney to reconsider and look into this new evidences, but was taken as obstructive by government.

    Now though having all evidences, my son has to serve the sentence. He is forced to serve because his green card is canceled and he can no longer work staying outside. It is financially difficult for him to survive. He also,
    requested meeting with FBI/government, which was rejected by court.

    I myself is feeling helpless, could not help my son. I have been reaching out Indian embassy and indian foreign affair ministers, but no luck. I have sent letters to India’s president, chief minister of our state, prime minister,
    president obama but no response. Only response, I received from Baltimore Senator, that this is a court matter and they cannot do anything.

    Government also know, the witness who testified lied and gave inconsistent statements. Knowingly they are ignoring the naiveness of their FBI agent and covering mistakes in their investigation. They know, they found my son’s password on the shared system, but are ignoring it. The agent assigned in this case is a newbie,
    if you see her reports, they are pathetic and handwritten with mistakes, typo, nonspecific, incomplete, lack basic computer knowledge etc. She doesn’t know the difference between a file and a directory, just blindly copy pasting from internet and lab reports. This agent is like a new driver behind wheel, who has ran over my son and will keep
    doing if proper training is not provided to her.

    I do not want to comment on the Juror who feels sorry now on this posting, but I would suggest better all Juror should watch ’12 Angry Men’ movie first, before they go for deliberation. In this case, there is no photo/video evidence showing my son committing the crime. They had cameras, but now government is saying the recordings are overwritten, which I am not buying. Juror should have used the common sense, that in today’s world photo id is very important in establishing someone’s identity. Government only had plane ticket with no photo id and you allowed them to board the plane.

    Anyway, I am proud of my son and I know he will rise. You cannot suppress truth for long time. He is optimistic and takes everything in positive way, good or bad. Definitely he will do something good when he serving his sentence. He has our blessing and I know he will come out strong.

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