The Network Hub

Jan 17 2008   11:28PM GMT

Server sabotage plot backfires on sys admin

2020viip Profile: 2020viip

Bridget Botelho has an interesting post on the DataCenter.com ServerSpecs blog about a recent story from Reuters covering a sys admin sentenced to 30 months in prison after his plot to wipe out his pharmacy benefit management company’s servers with a logic bomb — out of fear he was about to lose his job.

Network managers spend a lot of time protecting the network from common insider user threats such as sharing sensitive data over P2P or careless use of public wireless networks… (see Five common insider threats and how to mitigate them as an example). But who protects the network from trusted IT pros who do something irresponsible or intentionally harmful?

I don’t like it (but find it fascinating) when geeks perpetuate negative stereotypes about geeks — for example, the story of Hans Reiser, the Linux visionary accused of murdering his wife. In Reiser’s case, he didn’t use technology as his weapon, he used it as his defense: The “geek defense,” or “I’m a geek; I’m socially inept, but that doesn’t make me a murderer.”

I once knew a boy who hacked into a library’s computer network through a public terminal (this was back in the green text-on-a-black screen days) just to impress a girl. He sent all the terminals in the library into some kind of diagnostic that would tie them up for hours, and the girl was not amused. His reasoning seemed to be that if he was smart enough to do that and the library staff was dumb enough not to prevent him, then they deserved what they got.

I suspect that boy’s attitude was shared by the logic bombing sys admin, and tends to be common among disgruntled computer geeks everywhere. And it is probably perpetuated every day by the kinds of non-IT co-workers who say things like, “I don’t care how it works, just fix it.” So maybe the moral of the story is: Be nice to your IT guy, because you never know if he’s an evil genius with a chip on his shoulder (or a misguided impulse to impress a girl).

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  • David Vasta
    I have seen this over the years. It pretty sad. The people who think it's OK fall into the same camp as people who graffiti buildings. The building was there and it not my fault I painted it. What ever happened to Hans Reiser? Did that ever got to trial? He was a very smart person and I admired his work but just move to a new place, don't kill your wife!
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  • Ai-danno
    In our hosting environment, it's pretty easy to tell who's not mature and who is- we have been lucky not to have compromise maturity for talent (that ubiquitous mid-level manager line to an employee- "I know he's hard to work with, but he's smart and the best we can get- please work with him."). If you have to compromise on that footing, you've already compromised the security of your network- expect to be hacked eventually.
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