This Company Fired an Employee but Forgot to Remove His Access Credentials. It Cost Them $678,000 in Virtual Servers

  • A Singapore company fired a computer engineer but didn’t revoke his access permissions.

  • The former IT staff member illegally accessed servers, causing more than $678,000 worth of damage.

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Layoffs are always traumatic. This in mind, it’s important to take certain measures when laying off employees to avoid incidents like the one that occurred when a Singapore-based software company dismissed one of its IT staff members.

After the employee was fired, the company didn’t revoke his access rights to its servers. In retaliation, the employee took down 180 virtual servers, which the company used to test its software, causing over $678,000 worth of damage.

Dismissal for poor performance. In October 2022, the IT company NCS, which is based in Singapore, fired 39-year-old Kandula Nagaraju, a software engineer responsible for testing the company’s programs.

The company stated that Nagaraju’s poor performance was the reason for his dismissal. According to Channel News Asia, Nagaraju was “confused and upset” by the decision because he believed he had made significant contributions to the company during his year of employment at NCS.

Nagaraju’s job. He was employed at NCS to manage the company’s quality control computer system as part of a 20-person team. His job was to oversee a virtual environment where NCS’ software and services were tested before being offered to customers.

More specifically, this virtual environment, similar to a “sandbox,” tested the programs for bugs and fixed them up before NCS sold them to other companies. It consisted of 180 servers that simulated various business software and network environments to test NCS’ programs. It’s worth noting, though, that no confidential company information was stored in the testing environment.

A dish best served cold. Faced with the prospect of unemployment, Nagaraju returned to India, his home country. From there, in January 2023, he accessed NCS servers with his laptop up to six times.

In February 2023, the former employee returned to Singapore to work for another company. He took advantage of his previous contacts and shared a flat with one of his former colleagues. Using his Wi-Fi, he reconnected to NCS servers from his laptop for the next three months. During that time, he used Google for instructions on how to create a custom script with the purpose of taking down all of NCS' 180 virtual servers one by one.

Verdict: imprisonment for dismissal. The company conducted an internal investigation into the incident and found that Nagaraju had made unauthorized accesses. With the IP addresses in hand, the company filed a complaint with the court claiming S$917,832, which is about $678,000 at the current exchange rate.

After seizing Nagaraju’s laptop, the police checked the matching IPs and also found the code that he used to wipe the company’s virtual servers. As a result, a court sentenced the former employee to two years and eight months in prison for the damage caused and for the unauthorized access to the company’s network.

In the end, the fired employee was the one who had to pay up.

Image | ThisisEngineering via Unsplash

Related | Amazon Had to Meet Its Internal Employee Turnover Goals, So It Hired People to Fire Them

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