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Man who planted virus in an Army computer program cost taxpayers millions

A defense contractor was found guilty Wednesday of knowingly transmitting malicious code with the intent of causing damage to an Army computer, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina said in a statement Thursday.

Mittesh Das, a 48-year-old resident of Atlanta, unloaded the computer virus in November 2014 — days before the company he was contracted under was supposed to hand over operations to a different firm.

The code affected a national-level computer program the Army Reserve uses to handle pay and personnel actions for nearly 200,000 reservists, according to the statement. Five of the servers associated with the program were located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The Army projected the total labor cost to remove the computer virus and restore the corrupted information as roughly $2.6 million.

“Cyber-sabotage is not a ‘prank.’ It is a very serious crime with real victims and real costs. In this case, the crime cost taxpayers $2.6 million,” said John Stuart Bruce, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

Das was indicted on April 5, 2016, for the offense that occurred in 2014.

In December 2014, the Army Times reported on incidents of delayed payments to Army reservists. The delay — which averaged about 17 days — was attributed to a glitch in the Regional Level Application Software, said Lt. Col. William Ritter, a spokesman for the Reserve. That software’s functions included processing pay and orders, as well as transfers, awards and promotions, Ritter added.

The Justice Department was pleased with the outcome of the indictment, said Director Daniel Andrews of the Computer Crime Investigative Unit, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.

“Let this be a warning to anyone who thinks they can commit a crime in cyberspace and not get caught. We have highly trained and specialized investigators who will work around the clock to uncover the truth and preserve Army readiness,” Andrews said in the statement.

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