Will criminals plant Y2K bugs?

As if fears of a Y2K Armageddon weren’t enough, two top computer security experts in the U.S. are now warning that some programmers hired to fix the Y2K bug could be quietly planting malicious computer code. Why would they do such a bad thing? The rogue code could let them sabotage companies, gain access to corporate secrets, or both.

The warnings were issued at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, which was specifically discussing the “Y2K bug” and “cyberterrorism” in its sessions last week. According to the committee’s vice chair, many of these cyberpunk programmers (who have no security clearance) are working on critical systems as part of Y2K remediation. An FBI computer expert said that the programmers could add “trap doors” to systems they’re working on, which would let them re-enter systems illegally at a later date.

Since the effects of Y2K on a particular system can’t be completely predicted until the date occurs, programmers could hide their work under the guise of an unforeseen Y2K problem. In the meantime, the U.S. government has unveiled plans to create a new security network to protect the nation’s most portant computer systems from hackers, thieves, terrorists and hostile countries.

Experts wouldn’t venture to predict the extent of this new potential Y2K problem. Their only advice to corporate and government programing purchasers: deal only with suppliers you know and trust. In the meantime, we may never know how much of the Y2K problem (whatever its extent) is really caused by a four-digit date code. As in many things, we’ll simply have to put our faith in human nature.