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Former TSA Analyst Charged With Computer Tampering

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  • They missed "why?" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by skids (119237) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @11:26PM (#31434164) Homepage

    Not that it matters for the court case, but most people are going to be asking "well what was he trying to do?"

    Delete his girlfriend's name? Add the name of the guy who slept with his wife? I guess at least it leaves plenty of room for pointless speculation.

    • by Pyrion (525584) *
      I'd think the answer is obvious here: "damage."
      • by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmytheNO@SPAMjwsmythe.com> on Thursday March 11, 2010 @12:54AM (#31434634) Homepage Journal

            That would be consistent with trying to support their case.

            I was once charged with careless driving, that a couple corrupt cops wanted to make into a serious case, and get another notch in their belts. The charges were just shy of attempted murder, where I could have run someone over, except for the fact that I was driving down an empty back road in rural nowhere, and there wasn't a person to be seen along the route. The lied the whole way, including claiming that my car flew. Well, more like a "Dukes of Hazzard" jump, except my car couldn't get out it's own way. They had "experts" testify that my car had been modified for racing, and I switched it back to claim innocence. That was tough for a 16 year old with no money. A couple years later they were officially charged and convicted of a whole slew of charges including falsifying evidence and other various nasty charges. In my case, the DA stood in front of a judge, and said that I was a danger to the safety of the citizens of the state and I should be held until the conclusion of the hearings. As the courts run, that would have put me in county jail for about a year. In the end, it was dropped to careless driving, and I was let off with probation and community service.

            So a single pesky word passed by the grand jury was done for the drama, and to influence their case. It doesn't necessarily reflect the facts. Then again, it may be a hint of what they have.

            All they said is that his job was to work on the servers and database. They said "knowingly transmitted code". Was it a shell script to maintain something? Was it a virus on his PC that accidentally got on there (pesky Windows networks and poor security)? Was it something nefarious? It'll come out in the real case, but this guy will be spending an awful lot of time in jail and court before it's proven either way.

            I hope for the sake of justice that this isn't another innocent man run through the system just to prove that he's innocent.

        • by khallow (566160)

          So a single pesky word passed by the grand jury was done for the drama, and to influence their case. It doesn't necessarily reflect the facts. Then again, it may be a hint of what they have.

          Remember that a grand jury merely determines if there is cause for trial. The standard for evidence is very low. The word of a couple of corrupt cops or equivalent is sufficient evidence. The real trial is where things like that would come out (if it comes out).

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Some poor innocent woman was arrested and very nearly sent to prison for many years because all of the PCs in her elementary school classroom started displaying pr0n to the shock and amazement of all the little kids.

          It took a lot of time and a lot of effort that shouldn't have been in any way necessary, but she was finally vindicated when an expert witness was finally able to demonstrate that the pr0n display was the result of every PC in the class having been 0wn3d by a virus.

    • by spydum (828400)

      Presumably, read mail real fast.

    • by aldld (1663705)
      I think I'd rather know exactly how he did it.
    • by PPH (736903) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @12:13AM (#31434424)
      He was just searching for information about the infamous terrorist, Ahmed');Drop Table No_Fly_List;.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Opportunist (166417)

      May I speculate wildly?

      Some database hicckup happened that resulted in a slightly malformed database. The guy saw it, was enough of a guru to know the format and also how to fix it easily so it works again.

      Presto database tampering.

      • by dgatwood (11270)

        My speculation would be more along the lines of "If I leak the entire no-fly list to the press anonymously, I'll be a hero, particularly once the public sees who is on it."

        And that, my friends, is why I won't set foot through one of those damn full body scanners. There's somebody out there thinking, "If I create an anonymous video called 'Air Travelers Gone Wild', I'll be infamous." One cell phone camera is all it takes. Information, once placed in government hands, is as good as public knowledge---if no

        • Information, once placed in government hands, is as good as public knowledge---if not immediately, then eventually.

          Except, of course, for all those conspiracies the tinfoil-hat brigade is certain they're covering up.

          • by dgatwood (11270)

            The longer something is "covered up", the less likely it is that there is any truth in the conspiracy theory. Once all the people potentially involved are dead, there's nobody left to confess on his/her death bed, and the odds are good that somebody will if a story is true, so I think the real-world upper bound is about 40-50 years.

            • So Kennedy is finally in the sweet spot, hmm?

              Moonshot and MLK assassination are warming up in the back seats. We shall live in interesting times. ;)

  • by guruevi (827432) <evi@@@smokingcube...be> on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @11:27PM (#31434168) Homepage

    seven days after he'd being given two weeks notice that he was being dismissed

    So, you have this super-secure database system that is really important so the country doesn't get overrun by terrorists and then you do this!

    • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @11:31PM (#31434194)
      Two weeks notice for someone with access to confidential or secure data is just a bad idea. If it's time for them to go then now is the time for them to go.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Pyrion (525584) *
        Even if the system is required to give two weeks notice prior to dismissal, his access rights should be revoked the moment they've decided they're going to dismiss him. Let him collect a paycheck for two weeks without actually doing any work: since he's going to get fired anyway, why leave him in the position to do some real damage now that he's been given motivation?
        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Places also just give you a check for those last two weeks (along with all the other money they owe you) and out the door you go- two weeks to job hunt while still on the payroll.
          • by baegucb (18706)

            That's why I usually give 3 weeks notice and have another job already lined up :)

        • Garden Leave [wikipedia.org] - You need it.
      • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @11:41PM (#31434248) Homepage
        Not necessarily. If I still trust the person but can't afford to keep them due to a bad economy for example it isn't obvious that I should take them off of access to secure data. That's especially the case if in order to do the job they need access to the secure data (which isn't uncommon). Unfortunately, sometimes they need to train someone else to do the job and have the same problem. Sure in an ideal world, as soon as people got their two weeks notice they'd have no access to anything secure, but that's not generally doable. (To use an obvious analogy, if a bank teller gets a two week notice I don't think we expect the bank to not let them handle any cash for those two weeks).
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by lazycam (1007621)
          If you plan on letting someone go and you are a manager/administrator it's your responsibility to ensure the job gets done. Period. I don't care how much you trust the guy. You would be hard pressed to convince me this guy was the only person familiar with the system (of course this is our government). I'm sure the FBI or another agency would be happy to send in their expert for a time that risk a secure database from being compromised. Much cheaper than having to deal with the costs of say...another 9/11.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Pyrion (525584) *
            Moreover, if you plan on letting someone go and that person has access rights to sensitive information, you take away those access rights immediately. No exceptions. If it means they can't do their job, who cares? You've already decided you're firing the person, why try to squeeze two more weeks of "work" out of someone who is at this point nothing more than a liability?
        • by tsstahl (812393) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @11:55PM (#31434334)

          To use an obvious analogy, if a bank teller gets a two week notice I don't think we expect the bank to not let them handle any cash for those two weeks).

          No, I actually expect them NOT to handle money.

          Pay them for their time, thank them for their service and humanely supervise their cubicle packing. They are still 'yours' during he severence period, so call them if you need to.

          My employer trusts me. I have a good rapport with my boss. I also have access to data worth millions. If I were downsized tomorrow, i would expect to see HR, and maybe my desk one last time.

          • by byornski (1022169) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @12:21AM (#31434468)
            Because you'd be really small?
        • by plover (150551) * on Thursday March 11, 2010 @12:07AM (#31434392) Homepage Journal

          If you can't afford to keep them due to the bad economy, you can bet that they're still full of irrational emotions about being let go. It really doesn't matter what the real true reasons are or how well they're documented, a laid-off person will still take it personally. It may be professional pride, or shame, or some other feelings like "if only I had done more, they would have kept me instead of Joe," or a mix of all of the above. It hurts, it's confusing, and it's very very personal.

          Being laid off can be seen by the employee as a strike at the very core of their ego. Even a well-balanced person can respond irrationally. So you never, ever, let them back near sensitive data or systems after the layoff. It's heartless and cold, and you're a total shit for doing it, but you have to do it anyway. Or this happens, and it's completely his boss' fault for not escorting him to his desk and out the door immediately. Think about it: this guy is going to prison because his boss didn't have the balls to walk him out when he had the chance. Nice.

          • by timmarhy (659436) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @12:29AM (#31434516)
            no no no no. it's his own fault for being a stupid douche and tampering with shit he knew damn well he shouldn't be tampering with. attemping to make this his boss's fault for trusting him is just a classic symptom of today's society lack of personal responsibility. it's alllllways somebody elses fault right?

            i do agree they should have shown him the door right away, but it's his own faul he is in this mess, not his boss.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by plover (150551) *

              Yes, it's his own fault. He attempted to mess around with their data. And for that, he will deserve whatever punishment they give him.

              But it all could have been avoided if his boss had the stones to do what we all know he should have done. Not following this procedure is like handing car keys and a bottle of whiskey to an alcoholic, and then wondering why he got a DUI.

              • by timmarhy (659436)
                are you suggesting he is addicted to tampering with data or something? not that i think and alcoholic has any excuse either, but it's not on the same level.

                I think his boss should get a large sharp pineapple inserted into him, but he isn't responsible for this guys actions, merely for his own failure.

            • by sjames (1099)

              Unless, of course, they just ASSuME it's him because he had a motive that they know about. Or they have a problem, no idea who it is or even if it's internal or external, and need someone expendable to blame it all on. Nobody is more expendable than someone who will be gone in 2 weeks anyway.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              > no no no no. it's his own fault for being a stupid douche and tampering with shit he knew damn well he shouldn't be tampering with.

              More than one person can be at fault here. Nobody is arguing that it's not this guy's fault. Maybe you think it's a good idea to stand on the train tracks all day and whine about how any decent conductor should be paying enough attention to stop, but most people would say that you're asking for trouble.

              Trying to get off the hook for not stopping foreseeable problems is ju

          • by houghi (78078)

            It happend to me and I was fine untill they took away my red stapler.

          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            If you can't afford to keep them due to the bad economy, you can bet that they're still full of irrational emotions about being let go

            On the contrary, those emotions are rational, although they can lead to irrational actions.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by nedlohs (1335013)

          No way. If they get two weeks notice then they get to spend that two weeks being paid to not come to work.

          Even if they were the perfect employee, the risk that they are now disgruntled due to not having a job anymore is too high. Even if the risk is 0, you want a policy in place so that idiot managers don't screw up like this.

          You better be able to cope without them, after all they could quit and walk out tomorrow, crash the car driving to work and die or be in a coma for the next 6 months, get arrested for

        • by Miseph (979059)

          As a bank employee, I have absolutely no reason to believe that I would ever be given 2-weeks' notice. In fact, I know of a few people who were shit-canned for whatever reason, and none of them were given any notice at all... an e-mail is sent out to the effect that they are not to be spoken of, and they never show up again.

          I've seen the same happen in retail, not with regular grunts who couldn't do any serious damage if they wanted to, but anyone with access to keys or confidential information (ie. managem

          • by timmarhy (659436)
            i've seen it as well a few times now. they disappear into their boss's office, then it's out the door right after that. just easier to get rid of them.
        • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @12:48AM (#31434610)

          No. No! You can NOT trust that person anymore, sorry.

          I spent my time in bank auditing. High security levels, very high security standards applied, you don't even want to know where they checked me and my background... anyway. The standard procedure for layoffs (independent of which side terminated the contract) was to let the person go IMMEDIATELY. Not at the end of a two week period, not even the end of the day. IMMEDIATELY. You clean out your desk now, two people at your side watching your fingers, protocoling your actions. You are not working here anymore the very nanosecond the contract end has been signed.

          This is by no means an "instant dismissal", by the negative notion of it, neither was it in any way seen as such. It's also not a matter of trust, many of the people I cleaned out with were good, honest, decent and hard working people (what they did in bank auditing in the first place seems odd... but I ramble). It's a matter of principle and a matter of absolute security. To illustrate this, usually a nice little "good bye party" was hosted the evening to show that this person was not "fired out the window", it was just necessary due to secrecy.

          This served a few purposes. First of all, to minimize the threat that someone could give himself a nice "severance package" and take a few infos with him to pass on to some newspapers who would pay handsomely to have some banks financial reports a few months before some shit hits fans. Insider trade is also a big issue since it's tempting to give out "interesting" details and, well, what should they do to you for doing it, fire you? Not to mention that the IT had pretty much total access to ALL financial information of any customer or banks themselves, nothing you want to see backed up and taken home.

          It was a win-win for everyone. The auditing company could rest easy and be sure that nobody gives out info, and you got 6 weeks extra weeks of full payment that you could spend entirely on looking for something new to do instead of looking busy working while actually studying the classifieds.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

            This served a few purposes. First of all, to minimize the threat that someone could give himself a nice "severance package" and take a few infos with him to pass on to some newspapers who would pay handsomely to have some banks financial reports a few months before some shit hits fans.

            That's a two-edged sword. The fact that you instantly terminate people is going to be well known to all employees. It only takes half a brain to prepare for it - if the guy is crappy at his job to begin with, he probably expects to be fired at any time; if the company isn't doing so good - maybe there has been a previous round of layoffs - then everyone will consider themselves a candidate for the axe. So you end up in a situation where the crafty people pre-arrange things - maybe they leave a timebomb i

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Opportunist (166417)

              You cannot eliminate risk. But you can minimize it. And, bluntly, if someone expects to be fired, he should either be better at his job or he shouldn't be there in the first place.

              Also, without going into detail, we had security precautions against this kind of thing. You're talking about one of the most paranoid businesses on this planet. You don't think that you do anything unsupervised in this environment, do you?

              • And, bluntly, if someone expects to be fired, he should either be better at his job or he shouldn't be there in the first place.

                Irrelevant from a risk reduction standpoint.

                You don't think that you do anything unsupervised in this environment, do you?

                It certainly can't be any more supervised than after an employee is given notice.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Not always. When I got laid off in the third round of layoffs at a big company, I was furious. (Three department heads screamed murder when they found out I was leaving: two tried to hire me back on Monday, for their own departments. I'd been blocked from transferring by a new supervisor who should have been the one laid off, and the old supervisor kicked back downstairs from VP status.) But my supervisor, consulted with me on how to clean up projects and where things were, and I was left alone to clear my

          • > nothing you want to see backed up and taken home

            Once again this proves the importance of making regular offsite backups ;)

            • Oh, of course there was an offsite backup. Not going into detail for obvious reasons, but it was maybe the most expensive form of offsite backup you could dream up.

        • by mysidia (191772)

          To use an obvious analogy, if a bank teller gets a two week notice I don't think we expect the bank to not let them handle any cash for those two weeks

          Bank tellers and all their actions can easily be watched for obvious attempts to commit a crime, and it should be immediately obvious to the manager if the teller attempts to steal anything.

          If they have the combination to the vault, access cards to a secure area, building keys, or any alarm combination, it will probably be changed just after they get the n

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timmarhy (659436)
        i agree. after the stink the TSA has kicked up about how important security is, i don't give a fuck what excuse they have for letting this guy keep his access after he's been given notice. it's just plain wrong.
        • after the stink the TSA has kicked up about how important security is

          Look: we all know that the TSA's job isn't security as such, it's security theater.

      • by Stephenmg (265369)

        We revoke network access where I work if your suspended. This guy was being fired and they let him continue to work?

        • by sheph (955019)
          Maybe his boss sent him to the basement to get rid of the roaches. Could've been worse. He could've blown the place up.
      • by Kjella (173770)

        I know that it happens sometimes in Norway too on very critical systems or when fired for cause, but this whole idea that Americans seem to think is natural is really absurd to me. My resignation period is 3 months and I'm in the middle of it now. Still got my admin logins, all my server logins, the same intranet access I've always had. Two weeks is nowhere near enough to find a serious job, personally I spent about 1.5 months from application to contract going through interview rounds and negotiations. Now

    • by v1 (525388) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @11:55PM (#31434330) Homepage Journal

      Does make one wonder if the PHB that decided to give notice to a disgruntled employee with sensitive access will be held accountable for his stupidity? Oh wait, what am I thinking?

      Someone needs to give his ex-manager an education by example of how to can someone safely.

    • by Maxmin (921568) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @03:27AM (#31435222)

      The whole thing smells fishy: the indictment [mnginteractive.com]'s first odd bit is its vagueness about what Duchak was up to, specifically. No details.

      The second weird thing is that DOJ doesn't want him held - no bail mentioned (nor in any newstory that I've found), and the "will not seek detention" box is checked on the indictment form (pre-trial detention.)

      Likewise, the indictment says "five days or less" for the trial duration. I once sat for a sexual assault trial, and despite being an open-and-shut case of guy-grabs-coworkers-boobs-in-front-of-witnesses, it lasted 4-1/2 days.

      Three federal agents are listed, you can bet their affidavits spell out more of what he did... and they don't appear to be online. Further searching, looks like there's absolutely nothing within .gov that bears our Duchak's name.

      Under other circumstances (and administrations), this might have been a highly-touted smackdown in the war against whatever. Not so here...

      But hey! There's a Douglas James Duchak listed in the whitepages [anywho.com] ...

      Let's see if he can fill us in...

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        And the news reports are contradictory. Some would indicate he was making database edits, other refer to direct sabotage of the "computers" which is either so sloppy as to be incorrect, or indicating he was doing things like loading keyloggers on computers that used the database or other such things. It's hard to get a clear idea when the reports are not consistent and the actual allegations aren't released. I'd like to know why he did it, but even more important is what he actually did (or is accused of
    • Yeah, they should have fired him on a Friday. Studies have statistically shown that there's less chance of an incident if you do it at the end of the week.
    • by JamesP (688957)

      So, you have this super-secure database system that is really important so the country doesn't get overrun by terrorists and then you do this!

      It's probably an Access database and Clippy told them something was fishy...

  • by holdenholden (961300) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @11:29PM (#31434178)
    If I did the same thing I would be accused of violating DMCA, across federal borders, with intent to destabilize the National Security. I would be lucky to get away with a life sentence without parole. This guy is getting as much as somebody stealing a really big TV.
  • by Wayne247 (183933) <slashdot@laurent.ca> on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @11:39PM (#31434236) Homepage

    It's about time that a TSA agent steps over the line enough for the justice system to finally react and hit back. So far the TSA has been running their own show and making up their own laws so much that I became genuinely scared of passing through the USA on my next trip.

    • by causality (777677)

      It's about time that a TSA agent steps over the line enough for the justice system to finally react and hit back. So far the TSA has been running their own show and making up their own laws so much that I became genuinely scared of passing through the USA on my next trip.

      The TSA agent is being charged with tampering with a TSA system. The TSA just decided that he's not one of them after all and is merely trying to secure their own interests and make an example. I doubt this will stop their authoritarian attitude towards airline customers. I'd like to be wrong about this, however.

    • He's a data analyst, or maybe a sysop (the article is a bit light on the details), but not an agent. And he's not the first one of those to go off the reservation and get smacked. Happens a couple times a year, and gets reported here.

  • Public knowledge (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Darkness404 (1287218)
    If things like this were public knowledge similar to "most wanted" lists, perhaps abuses like this wouldn't happen. Secret lists will only lead to more abuses the more we rely on them.
  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @12:11AM (#31434414)

    It makes a claim without any relevant details. For example, if this former employee were doing a normal security assessment to file a report on what they need to lock down after he's gone, one which his new boss didn't ask for or understand as appropriate security practice, he could face exactly these kind of charges. Or if he were plugging a hole used by the NSA for warrant-free tapping and injection of data, knowing that the hole was a constitutional violation mandated by his previous boss, and whose discovery and protest over its existence was the reason he was fired, I'd applaud his desire though not his means to plug such a hole.

    Let's be quite clear: the TSA has inherited bad staff, bad bureaucracy, and bad guidance from the White House itself down to all the agencies it was created to oversee and merge and which it has profoundly failed to coordinate. The result is a security and policy nightmare, the kind of political football that incompetent middle managers flock to because it's so hard to close, and it's so hard to actually measure its work product. I'm not surprised that an employee being terminated was mishandled, or misbehaved by the agency's standards. But the agency engages in so much blatantly civil rights abuse that it's unreasonable to believe its claims of cyber attack without far more detail about what was attacked, and why.

    • by georoamer (909704)
      The TSA doesn't oversee other agencies, that's Homeland Security. TSA is only responsible for the security of flights originating in the U.S. It sound like this guy was responsible for reviewing information from other agencies watch lists and determining if such information properly should be included in the TSA don't fly list. Such analysis is valuable because it prevents the database from being filled up with irrelevant junk. I wonder if he just decided to clear his desk by dumping all the records he
  • 2 weeks notice? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If someone is going to be a problem, you can just let them go in most states. If you feel bad about letting them go, give the 2 weeks pay. You don't have to and you can let them go any time.
    People think there is some mythical 2 week rule. No mater where you work, you could be let go tomorrow for any reason without notice.

    So if this guy was some kind of problem they should have just given him his walking papers. If it was something else, well they are just stupid anyway.

  • Seriously guys? We read an unsubstantiated claim of "computer tampering" and automatically assume that he's guilty of treason or something equally malicious? The indictment was incredibly vague and we have little to go on.
  • by Anonymous Coward

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.

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