Fired programmer denies planting virus

A computer programmer fired from his job at American mortgage firm Fannie Mae has denied letting a virus loose on his last day at work.

A computer programer pleaded not guilty to charges that he planted a computer virus designed to destroy all the data on 4,000 Fannie Mae computer servers the day he was fired from the company.

Rajendrasinh Babubhai Makwana, an Indian citizen who had been working as a contractor employee at Fannie Mae's facility in Urbana, Maryland, was indicted last week by a federal grand jury for computer intrusion.

The indictment alleges that Makwana entered a malicious code on 24 October 2008, the day he was terminated and told to turn in his Fannie Mae laptop and other equipment, and it was set to propagate throughout the Fannie Mae network on 31 January.

The virus - embedded in a routine program - was discovered five days later by a Fannie Mae senior engineer, and promptly removed. "The malicious code was designed to propagate throughout the Fannie Mae network of computers and destroy all data," the US Attorney's office said in a statement.

If convicted, Makwana faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. A trial date is not expected to be set until late February.

Washington-based Fannie Mae is the largest US mortgage finance company. The company was seized in a government conservatorship in September.

A report last week suggested firms should be careful of their sensitive data when making IT workers redundant.

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