Gucci Admin Gets Fired, Then Gets Even. Really Even

Written by Evan Schuman
April 6th, 2011

Hell hath no fury like a coder scorned. A Gucci network engineer, who was fired for what prosecutors said was “abusing his employee discount,” was indicted Monday (April 4) and accused of striking back at Gucci. He allegedly deleted several virtual servers, shut down a storage area network (SAN) and deleted corporate mailboxes. But the methods 34-year-old Sam Chihlung Yin used to eke out his revenge are even more interesting: He created a non-existent employee (prior to his being fired) and then issued the vapor worker a VPN token. The government says he then “tricked” IT staff into activating it.

If the accusations are true, then the network engineer certainly engaged in decidedly naughty behavior. But in terms of engaging in proper security procedures—especially if there was any payment-card data lurking in those servers—there’s plenty of black coal to go around. (New definition of the time duration equivalent of absolute zero: The interval between Gucci’s PCI QSA hearing about this indictment and when he sends an E-mail demanding a meeting.)

Gucci’s IT staff was “tricked” into activating a VPN token for a non-existent employee? That must have been some trick. How difficult is it to look up an employee and verify with a known manager that he/she needs that access and, by the way, actually exists?

This guy’s Capt. Tuttle was granted complete admin privileges, such that entire virtual servers could be deleted. That didn’t raise any eyebrows? And this non-existent worker had this access from June through November. Six full months of admin access and no one bothered to verify that this was a legitimate manager?

By the way, this non-existent employee’s network account was created by a fired network engineer. Shouldn’t standard policy be to carefully re-examine all recent activity by fired network engineers, for precisely this type of situation?

According to the indictment and people familiar with the prosecution efforts in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, network engineer Yin—a naturalized U.S. citizen from Taiwan, who worked out of Gucci’s IT operations in Secaucus, N.J.—was fired in May 2010 for abusing his employee discount by purchasing Gucci products in substantial bulk and then reselling those products in Asia.

Before he was fired, though, he laid a foundation for revenge. In court, prosecutors said there was no known profit motive for the retaliation: just revenge.


8 Comments | Read Gucci Admin Gets Fired, Then Gets Even. Really Even

  1. Jim Huguelet Says:

    I was not expecting an obscure M*A*S*H reference but it was welcome. Captain Tuttle was indeed a great man, albeit one who never said much…

  2. Dr.P. Says:

    Security policies and actual practices must have been seriously flawed to allow this. It also appears that the higher level IT managers did not take their responsibilities seriously or they lacked technical competence. Security is part of their job. Gucci(and other companies) might address this example of poor management by tieing management bonuses (and salaries) to flawless performance. I am surprised that Yi (presumably) did not just transfer some hefty cash balances to a few off-shore banks and take an extended vacation abroad.

  3. Evan Schuman Says:

    Editor’s Note: That was a last-minute change. We did some searching and found that it was not that obscure at all. A Bing/Google/Yahoo/Wilkipedia search for Capt. Tuttle instantly found the right one so we thought if anyone was curious, the pop culture reference was easily discoverable. It’s an interesting process. Given that our audience is fairly global–one out of five readers is outside the U.S.–and the age range is all over the map, we have concluded that a healthy portion of readers won’t recognize most such references. So we either forgo them or we make sure that the meaning of the sentence is clear even if the reference is unknown.

  4. Dave Says:

    This Gucci story reminded me of something that happened early in my career. When I was building another technology company back in the 80’s, we came across a business that hired a developer to write a set of accounting packages for them. One module was a simple payroll application. He wrote a routine in there that verified his Social Security number on every payroll run. The nefarious “extra” routine he wrote was that if his SS# was not found (ie. he was terminated), the entire software package and related files self destructed. He was ultimately terminated and the software melted down.

  5. Chris Says:

    This is a interesting story and I totally agree with Dr. P that the security management at Gucci is serously flawed and the information security governance and risk management at Gucci have not been defined to follow the industry best practices.

    For the article itself, I found it is bizarre that the author specifically pointed out that Yin is a “naturalized US Citizen from Taiwan”. This kind of words provides a hint of “profiling” and should not be used.

  6. Steve Sommers Says:

    LOL – another commenter’s reference to “One module was a simple payroll application” brought back memories of horror from my early days as a programmer. Payroll is never “simple!” You’re dealing with employee money, employer money, government regulations, federal & state tax reporting, and many times, union money — not simple! Sorry for the side-track but when I read this my eye started to involuntarily twitch.

  7. Evan Schuman Says:

    Editor’s Note: The story did not intend to profile with the use of that description. That was from the District Attorney’s office and it was solely intended to indicate that the defendant had ties to Asia, which was offered as an explanation for why he was supposedly selling these products in Asia.

  8. Rajah Donalt Says:

    I find it annoying that people who have no intimate knowledge of the situation make broad sweeping comments about other’s being incompetent or flawed. It certainly seems like this shouldn’t have happened and that people should have paid more attention. However, in this world of companies expecting employees to do more for less, work crazy hours, and work what should be multiple people’s jobs, who can claim they would never make a mistake? Noone, that’s who. And if you do, well that shows a level of incompenetence and stupidity in and of itself.


StorefrontBacktalk delivers the latest retail technology news & analysis. Join more than 60,000 retail IT leaders who subscribe to our free weekly email. Sign up today!

Most Recent Comments

Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

Our apologies. Due to legal and security copyright issues, we can't facilitate the printing of Premium Content. If you absolutely need a hard copy, please contact customer service.