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A former sys admin at Medco Health Solutions, one of the US's prescription drug management firms, has been charged over a failed attempt to to destroy its systems using a "logic bomb" computer virus.

Yung-Hsun Lin allegedly planted malware on Medco's systems in October 2003 because of concerns he might lose his job after the firm's spin-off from Merck. When the code failed to launch a year later because of coding flaw, Yung-Hsun (who survived a round of lay-offs) reprogrammed the malware to go off on his next birthday (April 23, 2005), according to a federal indictment unsealed in New Jersey this week. Fortunately the malware was discovered and defused before it could do any damage.

Prosecutors allege the logic bomb had the potential to destroy critical databases on more than 70 servers, including patient files listing adverse affects to particular drugs and billing information. "The potential damage to Medco and the patients and physicians served by the company cannot be understated," US Attorney Christopher Christie told AP. "A malicious program like this can bring a company's operations to a grinding halt and cause millions of dollars in damage from lost data, system downtime, recovery and repair."

Yung-Hsun, who was arrested by FBI officer at his New Jersey home on Tuesday morning, faces a court hearing on computer hacking and fraud offences on 3 January. ®

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