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Computer Programmer Charged With Stealing Software Code From Federal Reserve Bank

A complaint unsealed last Wednesday in Manhattan federal court charged Bo Zhang, a computer programmer, with stealing proprietary software code from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where Zhang worked as a contract employee.

Janice Fedarcyk, FBI assistant director-in-charge, stated: “Zhang took advantage of the access that came with his trusted position to steal highly sensitive proprietary software. His intentions with regard to that software are immaterial. Stealing it and copying it threatened the security of vitally important source code.”

According to the complaint:

The Government-wide Accounting and Reporting Program (“GWA”) is a software system that is owned by the United States Department of the Treasury (“DOT”). It is used principally to help keep track of the United States government’s finances. Among other things, the GWA handles ledger accounting for each appropriation, fund, and receipt within the DOT, and provides federal agencies with an account statement – similar to bank statements provided to bank customers – of the agencies’ account balances with the United States Treasury. The proprietary computer source code associated with the GWA is maintained by the Federal Reserve Board of New York (“FRBNY”) in an access-controlled electronic repository. The FRBNY is further developing the source code for the GWA.

As alleged in the Complaint, between May 2011 and August 11, 2011, Bo Zhang was a contract employee assigned to the FRBNY to work on further developing a specific portion of the GWA’s source code (the “GWA Code”), which the United States has spent approximately $9.5 million to develop. In the summer of 2011, ZHANG allegedly stole the GWA Code.

According to the Complaint, Zhang admitted that in July 2011, while working at the FRBNY, he checked out and copied the GWA Code onto his hard drive at the FRBNY; he subsequently copied the GWA Code onto an FRBNY-owned external hard drive; and he connected that external hard-drive to his private office computer, his home computer, and his laptop. Zhang stated that he used the GWA Code in connection with a private business he ran training individuals in computer programming.

Zhang faces a maximum term of ten years in prison, a maximum term of three years of supervised release, and a fine of the greatest of $250,000, or twice the gross pecuniary gain derived from the offense or twice the gross pecuniary loss to the victims.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As today’s case demonstrates, our cyber infrastructure is vulnerable not only to cybercriminals and hackers, but also alleged thieves like Bo Zhang who used his position as a contract employee to steal government intellectual property. Fighting cyber crime is one of the top priorities of this Office and we will aggressively pursue anyone who puts our computer security at risk” – Source.

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