Programmers Insurance ? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I am not sure that this post can be traced back to me so let us call this a fiction story.

I came to this country when I was seven years old with my parents and I consider myself an American. I would never want to go back to my parents country, mainly because I am a woman. Recently, relatives from the 'old' country were visiting and one has a company that has a multimillion dollar contract to fix the Y2K problems in the programs of a large American company.

One of the other relatives (man) made the comment 'Watch out for the Jew banker, they are very untrustworthy'. The computer relative replied 'we are taking out programmers insurance, just in case'.

When ask what is that, he said his company had a select team of men whose job is make the software pass the Y2k test but will fail at several days and ways in the near future after 01/01/00 if not changed. If he does not get his money for the Y2k fixes, they do not get the patches???

My question - Do you programmers think this is possible that he is really doing this and do you think other companies are taking out this programmers insurance ?

I would like to have ask him more questions but as a woman in my family, we do not do that. And no, I have not talked to my family members about the possible problems of Y2K.

Getting Concerned

-- Getting Concerned (East, January 25, 1999


I saw that in a movie once. Anything is possible. #@&$.

-- Sue (, January 25, 1999.

Short answer: Yes, it is possible, and such things have already happened.

However, in the U.S. legal system, such conduct is a crime, just as it would be a crime for a company with which one has a contract to refuse to pay for work that is done. With a contract, both sides have legal obligations - failure to pay is a breach of contract, but so is delivery of a deliberately sabotaged product.

I have read news accounts of a trial of a programmer who put into his program a way of destroying his employer's data after a certain date. I don't remember the details of why he did this -- whether it was a way to ensure that he got paid, or revenge for not having been paid in the past, or what. But whatever his motive, it was a crime for him to destroy his employer's data.

There are legal ways of ensuring that one receives payment due for work. For instance, the programmer could have insisted that the contract provide that the money be paid in installments according to delivery of specified portions of the project on time.

Or there could have been an arrangement to have the money put in escrow with a trusted third party -- that is, someone both sides trust to do what is right. In that case, when the programmers deliver their product and it passes the company's testing (overseen by the third party), then the escrowed money is paid to the programmers. If the programmers fail to deliver, the escrowed money stays in escrow until it is delivered, or perhaps goes back to the company once a certain time has elapsed without proper delivery of the contracted programs.

Use of the so-called "programmers insurance" method that you describe would run the risk of being considered a breach of contract or fraud or other legal violation under U.S. law even if the company paid the programmers and they subsequently delivered the patches to stop the deliberately-designed failures from occurring. I can see that it has a certain merit or justice to it, but I also see that it is not compatible with the American system of justice.

-- No Spam Please (, January 25, 1999.

Those who contemplate using that so-called "programmer's insurance" plan should consider this:

What if the company with whom they have contracted has arranged for other programmers to examine the delivered programs with the specific aim of looking for and discovering deliberately-planted errors such as the ones described above? Then they may find that the company discovers their planted failures before paying them, and they might wind up with the worst of both: not being paid (because they delivered a deliberately-faulty product) _and_ being charged with legal violations for their attempted blackmail.

-- No Spam Please (, January 25, 1999.

Can be done, has been done, and programmer who did it has been prosecuted right here in Wisconsin. As I recall, the guy hadn't been paid and activated a program supposedly masked the data. Think part of his defense was that he hadn't really destroyed the data, just made it unavailable. However I believe he was eventually convicted. Best guess, about 5 years ago - should be able to find in Milwaukee Journal achives.


-- john hebert (, January 25, 1999.

I think we're talking here about offshore software houses. The legal concerns might be of less concern to them.

Just as possible and even worse would be back doors, viruses, time bombs, etc.

-- Ned (, January 25, 1999.

I don't think it was necessary or relevant to include the phrase "jew banker"

-- A Jew (, January 25, 1999.

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