Ex-Fannie Mae programmer says not guilty of virus

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A 35-year-old computer programmer pleaded not guilty on Friday to charges that he planted a computer virus designed to destroy all the data on 4,000 Fannie Mae computer servers the day he was fired from the company.

Rajendrasinh Babubhai Makwana, an Indian citizen who had been working as a contractor employee at Fannie Mae’s facility in Urbana, Maryland, was indicted on Tuesday by a federal grand jury for computer intrusion.

The indictment alleges that Makwana entered a malicious code on October 24, 2008, the day he was terminated and told to turn in his Fannie Mae laptop and other equipment, and it was set to propagate throughout the Fannie Mae network on January 31.

The virus -- embedded in a routine program -- was discovered five days later by a Fannie Mae senior engineer, and promptly removed. “The malicious code was designed to propagate throughout the Fannie Mae network of computers and destroy all data,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement.

If convicted, Makwana faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Makwana, a resident of Glen Allen, Virginia, was released under pre-trial supervision, said Marcia Murphy, spokeswoman for Rod Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland. She said a trial date would probably not be set until late February.

Washington-based Fannie Mae is the largest U.S. mortgage finance company. The company was seized in a government conservatorship in September.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Gary Hill