[ISN] How a guy's gizmo spread fear at Fed

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Mon Nov 15 05:47:54 EST 2004

Forwarded from: William Knowles <wk at c4i.org>


November 11, 2004 
It nearly sparked a financial catastrophe.

An electrician's homemade gadget wreaked havoc on the Federal Reserve
Bank of New York, causing computer convulsions at a facility that
houses the world's biggest cash vault, the Daily News has learned.

The foulup short-circuited the career of journeyman electrician John
Cravetts, who was fired though he insists he meant no harm.

But it could have been much worse, according to papers filed in
Manhattan Federal Court.

"The results could have been catastrophic," said Barry Schindler, an
attorney for the New York Fed.

Fed officials say they might have had to shut down computers that
process some $2.5 trillion in funds and securities payments and $4
billion in checks every day.

Fortunately, backup systems kicked in after the Nov. 17, 2002,

The heavily guarded facility in East Rutherford, N.J., is also home to
a vault that handles more than $1 billion in currency, coins and food

Cravetts, 62, was canned two weeks after the incident. A surveillance
tape caught him using the crude device - two red wires strung between
an ordinary household switch and plug.

He later filed an age discrimination suit and also charged his firing
was retaliation for reporting an electrocution hazard at the facility
where he'd worked for almost 10 years.

Manhattan Federal judge Harold Baer tossed out Cravetts' claim this

"I had an unblemished record," Cravetts told The News yesterday.

"What I did was in good faith. I did not do anything malicious," added
the licensed electrician, who has since found a new job. "What do they
think I'm going to do, sabotage it?"

Although Fed attorneys presented a near-doomsday scenario in court
filings, Fed spokesman Peter Bakstansky downplayed the incident

"There was no point at which the operations of the Fed were in
danger," Bakstansky said. "We stopped him. ... We have a lot of

Cravetts had been asked to locate circuit breakers on the Fed
computers that had not been properly labeled.

He used his gizmo to conduct the search, plugging it in and tripping
breakers, knocking out power as he went along.

Cravetts told The News his superiors knew he used the device. He had
made four of them at work.

Fed attorneys say he should have used a device that sends a harmless
tone back to the breaker and doesn't cause disruptions.

Cravetts said that for more than a year, he had asked his bosses to
order the manufactured device needed for the job, but they never did.

"Communications without intelligence is noise;  Intelligence
without communications is irrelevant." Gen Alfred. M. Gray, USMC
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