Logic bomb

A logic bomb is a piece of code intentionally inserted into a software system that will set off a malicious function when specified conditions are met. For example, a programmer may hide a piece of code that starts deleting files (such as a salary database trigger), should they ever be terminated from the company.

Software that is inherently malicious, such as viruses and worms, often contain logic bombs that execute a certain payload at a pre-defined time or when some other condition is met. This technique can be used by a virus or worm to gain momentum and spread before being noticed. Many viruses attack their host systems on specific dates, such as Friday the 13th or April Fool's Day. Trojans that activate on certain dates are often called "time bombs".

To be considered a logic bomb, the payload should be unwanted and unknown to the user of the software. As an example, trial programs with code that disables certain functionality after a set time are not normally regarded as logic bombs.


Supposed logic bombing of the Trans-Siberian Pipeline

It has been reported that in 1982 the Trans-Siberian Pipeline incident occurred because of a logic bomb. (It has later been reported that this story may be a hoax[1]). A KGB operative was purported to have stolen the plans for a sophisticated control system and its software from a Canadian firm, for use on their Siberian pipeline. The CIA was supposedly tipped off by documents in the Farewell Dossier and had the company insert a logic bomb in the program for sabotage purposes.[2] This eventually resulted in "the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and the first fire ever seen from space".[3]

Attempted logic bombs

  • In February 2000, Tony Xiaotong, indicted before a grand jury, was accused of planting a logic bomb during his employment as a programmer and securities trader at Deutsche Morgan Grenfell. The bomb, planted in 1996, had a trigger date of July 20, 2000, but was discovered by other programmers in the company. Removing and cleaning up after the bomb allegedly took several months.[4]
  • On October 2, 2003 Yung-Hsun Lin, also known as Andy Lin, changed code on a server at Medco Health Solutions Inc. Fair Lawn, New Jersey headquarters, where he was employed as a Unix administrator, creating a logic bomb set to go off on his birthday in 2004. It failed to work due to a programming error, so Lin corrected the error and reset it to go off on his next birthday, but it was discovered and disabled by a Medco computer systems administrator a few months before the trigger date. Lin pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 months in jail in a federal prison in addition to $81,200 in restitution. The charges held a maximum sentence of 10 years and a fine of US$250,000.[5][6]
  • In June 2006 Roger Duronio, a disgruntled system administrator for UBS, was charged with using a logic bomb to damage the company's computer network, and with securities fraud for his failed plan to drive down the company's stock with activation of the logic bomb.[7][8][9] Duronio was later convicted and sentenced to 8 years and 1 month in prison, as well as a $3.1 million restitution to UBS.[10]
  • On 29 October, 2008 a logic bomb was discovered at American mortgage giant Fannie Mae. The bomb was allegedly planted by Rajendrasinh Babubhai Makwana, an Indian citizen and IT contractor who worked in Fannie Mae's Urbana, Maryland facility. The bomb was set to activate on 31 January, 2009 and could have wiped all of Fannie Mae's 4000 servers. Makwana had been terminated around 1:00pm on 24 October, 2008 and managed to plant the bomb before his network access was revoked. Makwana was indicted in a Maryland court on 27 January, 2009 for unauthorized computer access.[11][12]
  • In October 2009, Douglas Duchak was terminated from his job as data analyst at the TSA’s Colorado Springs Operations Center (CSOC). Surveillance cameras captured images of Duchak entering the facility after hours loading a logic bomb onto a CSOC server that stored data from the U.S. Marshals. In January 2011, Duchak was sentenced to two years prison, $60,587 in fines, and three years probation.[13] At his sentencing, Duchak tearfully apologized as his lawyer noted that at the time of the incident, Duchak's wife was pregnant with their second child. The judge at the sentencing mentioned that this logic bomb planting "incident was an anomaly in an otherwise untarnished work history."[14]

Fictional logic bombs

  • In "Moffett's Ghost," an episode of the Airwolf television series, Hawk loses control of the onboard computer, which was programmed on a timer by Airwolf's creator, Doctor Charles Henry Moffett... once activated, Airwolf is set to destroy any aircraft in its range.
  • In Michael Crichton's book Jurassic Park, computer technician Dennis Nedry inserted an object into the mainframe coding for the park that would shut off the entire island's power (including the supply to the electric fences) in order to steal several dinosaur embryos in the chaos. The logic bomb object was named "White Rabbit."
  • The Tom Clancy book Debt of Honor features a logic bomb installed in the code of various stock market computers.
  • Hugh Jackman's character in Swordfish, Stanley Jobson, claims to have "dropped a logic bomb through the trapdoor" while hacking into a Department of Defense network.
  • In the episode "Scattered" of the 2004 re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica, the Cylons leave a logic bomb in the ship's computers after briefly gaining access to them. It later causes a series of nearly catastrophic system malfunctions.
  • In the CIA level of Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, a PC and console videogame, a conversation can be heard with a reference to a logic bomb.
  • In the PC strategy game Empire Earth, the Japanese special unit, the Cyber Ninja, has an attack called "Logic Bomb". This bears little resemblance to a real logic bomb, instead simply disabling an enemy building for a brief period.
  • In Season 3 of 24, Nina Myers manipulates Jack Bauer to unknowingly activate a virus in the CTU computer systems. It is activated by a phone call to a certain number.
  • In Series 6, Episode 8 of Spooks the Yalta organization sets off a logic bomb planted within the American defense network to shutdown all US controlled satellites. It is activated by the entry of a code into a game which causes the logic bomb to copy a virus to all the satellites and shut them down.
  • In season 6, episode 2 of NCIS Abby and McGee have a conversation about logic that gives them the idea of using a logic bomb to hack into computers on a US Naval Carrier to access certain files. No details of the bomb itself are seen on screen or discussed at all.

See also


  1. ^ Bookscape: Short Story - Famous Computer Hoaxes
  2. ^ M. French (2004-04-36). "Tech sabotage during the Cold War". Federal Computer Week. Archived from the original on 2007-12-28. http://web.archive.org/web/20071228164807rn_1/www.fcw.com/print/10_12/news/82709-1.html. 
  3. ^ CIA slipped bugs to Soviets[dead link]
  4. ^ "Man Indicted in Computer Case". The New York Times: pp. C.7. 2000-02-10 
  5. ^ Vijayan, Jaikumar. "Unix Admin Pleads Guilty to Planting Logic Bomb". PC World. http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,137479/article.html. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  6. ^ "2.5 Years in Jail for Planting 'Logic Bomb'". Slashdot. http://it.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/01/09/1328251&from=rss. 
  7. ^ Man accused of crashing UBS servers | The Register
  8. ^ Nightmare On Wall Street: Prosecution Witness Describes 'Chaos' In UBS PaineWebber Attack - News byy InformationWeek
  9. ^ Are Background Checks Necessary For IT Workers? Ask UBS PaineWebber - VARBusiness
  10. ^ Former UBS Computer Systems Manager Gets 97 Months for Unleashing “Logic Bomb” on Company Network
  11. ^ Fannie Mae Contractor Indicted For Logic Bomb
  12. ^ Former Employee of Fannie Mae Contractor Convicted of Attempting to Destroy Fannie Mae Computer Data October 4, 2010
  13. ^ TSA Worker Gets 2 Years for Planting Logic Bomb in Screening System January 12, 2011
  14. ^ Springs man sent to prison for hacking into TSA computer January 11, 2011

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • logic bomb — log′ic bomb n. cmp an illegal computer program intended to do damage locally under certain circumstances …   From formal English to slang

  • logic bomb — noun Date: 1978 a computer program often hidden within another seemingly innocuous program that is designed to perform usually malicious actions (as deleting files) when certain conditions have been met …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • logic bomb — noun A piece of code intentionally inserted into a software system that will set off a malicious function when specified conditions are met …   Wiktionary

  • logic bomb — ● ►en loc. f. ►SECU Voir bombe logique …   Dictionnaire d'informatique francophone

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