Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Are there famous cases of sabotage in the chemical or pharma industries?

An odd story from Tesla Motors (via the New York Times): 
Now Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, suspects his company might have a more unusual problem: sabotage. 
In an email sent to employees late Sunday night, Mr. Musk said a disgruntled worker had broken into the company’s computer systems in an attempt to disrupt manufacturing. 
“I was dismayed to learn this weekend about a Tesla employee who had conducted quite extensive and damaging sabotage to our operations,” he wrote. “This included making direct code changes to the Tesla Manufacturing Operating System under false usernames and exporting large amounts of highly sensitive Tesla data to unknown third parties.”
That seems problematic for Tesla - I wonder how long it will take to fix this issue? I imagine that there are relatively few situations where pharma or chemical industry insiders found themselves tempted enough to act on negative impulses... 

12 comments:

  1. It depends on what you consider sabotage. Because chemistry is so hands-on even in large scale manufacturing, it's hard to re-write malicious code to disrupt things for a long period of time. However, there have been several recent cases of workers stealing compounds/recipes to sell through their own CROs. If that constitutes sabotage then it does happen and it's happening more often in pharma.

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  2. Didn't the executives of Union Carbide spin a sabotage story until something like 2010 (when they were finally jailed) for the reason of the MIC explosion?

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  3. The Tesla case gets a little more complicated by the week!

    Can't say any cases in industry come to mind. There have been stories out of academic research labs, including this one.

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  4. There's a theory that the perpetrator of the Chicago Tylenol murders (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Tylenol_murders) introduced KCN at some point during the formulation or manufacturing process - instead of by buying bottles, poisoning them, and then returning them to stores as has been commonly assumed. That would certainly count as sabotage!

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  5. Big acts of sabotage are rare, but I've seen plenty of low-level sabotage like malicious compliance.

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  6. Bhopal disaster was caused by sabotage. At least that's one theory according to Wikipedia

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    1. It was mentioned above, but the CSB ignored the sabotage claim and basically said a poor design and training of employees led to the disaster.

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  7. Management in corporate America acts the way that CIA describes as sabotage https://www.cia.gov/news-information/featured-story-archive/2012-featured-story-archive/simple-sabotage.html

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    1. "Don't order new working materials until your current stocks have been virtually exhausted, so that the slightest delay in filling your order will mean a shutdown." - This is exactly how I feel about just-in-time manufacturing!

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  8. How bout Stuxnet (targetting Iran's uranium centrifuges)?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuxnet

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  9. I think the people handling the clinical trials and other regulatory issues with CDER(FDA) have lots of power over the fate of their company.

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  10. There was a story on Reddit r/chemistry where a safety worker had evacuated an entire plant because of a cyanide leak smell that turned out to be an employee pulling a 'prank' with some almond oil.
    Links:
    https://www.reddit.com/r/chemistry/comments/4cpbrh/almond_smell/
    Follow up: https://www.reddit.com/r/chemistry/comments/4ctuyr/update_to_almond_smell/

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