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SF Not an Exception In Giving IT Too Much Control

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the double-edged-sword dept.

Networking 245

CWmike writes "The city of San Francisco's IT department is certainly not the exception when it comes to allowing just one person to have unfettered rights to make password and configuration changes to networks and enterprise systems. In fact, it's a situation fairly common in many organizations — especially small to medium-size ones, IT managers and others cautioned in the wake of the recent Terry Childs incident."

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God complex (4, Funny)

daveywest (937112) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339323)

What was it they said in the 80's about the most common admin passwords?

Re:God complex (4, Funny)

pwnies (1034518) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339353)

"1, 2, 3, 4, 5...the kind of thing an idiot would have on his luggage"
-Spaceballs, 1987.

Re:God complex (4, Funny)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339427)

That is the combination to my luggage, you insensitive clod!

Re:God complex (4, Insightful)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339585)

The subject of the article is about one central admin having too much control over too many machines, and the risks that entails when they go bad.

Which makes a person wonder... how much worse when billions of consumers are giving total control over all their machines to a centralized authority through Trusted Computing and Vista?

I mean, what happens when Microsoft goes bad?

Re:God complex (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24339669)

When Microsoft goes bad? You must be new here.

Re:God complex (1)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339889)

When?

When microsoft goes bad? (1)

wattrlz (1162603) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339895)

Hmmm, What were the 80s and 90s like?

Re:God complex (1)

Panaqqa (927615) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340083)

Uh, what do you mean WHEN Microsoft goes bad?

Re:God complex (5, Insightful)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340165)

and the risks that entails when they go bad.

It's not just when they go bad. What happens if they get run over by a bus or a stampede of wildebeests? If they are the only person to know the admin passwords, commands, etc, they are the single point of failure, regardless if they go bad or not.

Just as we harp on backing up our files (um, yeah), we also need to harp on a backup for the admin. There should always be someone else, even if it's the mayor, who also has the list of admin passwords.

Re:God complex (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24340193)

I mean, what happens when Microsoft goes bad?

You say that like they haven't already :P

Re:God complex (2, Insightful)

TRRosen (720617) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340487)

Unfortunately this article is about one periphery admin that had control over only a few routers. The rest has been made up by the city and the media.

It will happen again, and continue to happen. (4, Insightful)

pwnies (1034518) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339325)

I really think this type of thing is inevitable with this high level of a network admin. There comes a point where the complexity of the network you manage means that you simply can't report all the inner details and workings to a manager or overseer. Not only that, but with the speed that computers advance, hardware becomes obsolete within a decade, and new talent often times wont have knowledge/capabilities/will to deal with the older hardware that builds up in operations such as these.

Sadly I think the only thing one can do with things this size, is appoint someone and pray he isn't chaotic evil.

Re:It will happen again, and continue to happen. (4, Insightful)

The Warlock (701535) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339391)

No, that doesn't work. What if, instead of just refusing to divulge the password, Childs had shot himself in the head or gotten hit by a bus or something. He locked down his network so well that only through a password that was only in his head could anyone have admin access.

Re:It will happen again, and continue to happen. (3, Interesting)

Aphoxema (1088507) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339473)

While more people should have had access to the network were it ever really needed, sometimes the only really efficient way to take care of a really intricate and dedicated task is to have one person do it all.

He certainly could have been more responsible about it though and prepared assistants to understand exactly how it worked, but who knows, maybe he really was trying to document his system for others but management got in the way of anything productive. That's what management's for, right?

Re:It will happen again, and continue to happen. (1)

The Warlock (701535) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339545)

Well, at my job management stays the fuck out of the way.

This may be less productive in the long run. For example, I'm posting on Slashdot right now.

But the fact is, when you have a complicated system, you need to make sure that more than one person understands it. Sure, in this case it was done with malice aforethought, but a situation where Childs got hit by a bus the day before he would have otherwise locked everyone else out is not hard to imagine.

This is the best way, anyways.. (0, Redundant)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339605)

When you do teamwork, everyone has some of the knowledge, and no one has a big, overall picture. That model doesn't work for a network.

Although, what if terry childs had died suddenly.. like, from a heart attack, or a very fast onset of diabetes, or choking on a donut? It doesn't make sense for a manager to give complete freedom to IT to the point where IT doesn't even have to stay with well known (to management) passwords!

Re:This is the best way, anyways.. (2, Insightful)

Aphoxema (1088507) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339959)

Heheh... heh... it's kind of funny... you can't network people to work on a network.

Re:It will happen again, and continue to happen. (3, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339945)

This whole "I'm unique and a genius and only through my incredible mental powers does this network keep running" schtick was idiotic long before the lunatic out SF decided that he was God of the Network and beyond any of the Powers that Be. Yes, it's true that complex networks can be tough to explain, and yes, I can well understand why the architect of a network might not want someone else screwing with the configs, but come on, at least a few of us have been faced with having to untangle a complex network config. For the most part, I find the really complex ones I've had to deal with were more due to a distinct lack of ability rather than because the guy was some supergenius. Make some decent network diagrams with good descriptions of what various routers, servers, etc. do, and a reasonably well-trained and/or experienced network guy will likely be able to figure it out. It might be painful at points, and if the old guy is truly gone (rotting in prison because he's a narcissistic wanker or because he got hit by a bus) it might take some work, but providing the configurations aren't some sort of spaghetti routing tables, it should be reasonably possible to pick it all up.

I'm sometimes wonder whether guys like Childs are more hiding their own inadequacies than trying to protect the network from incompetents. I've done a few configs that I've been a little embarassed about, but because of time constraints I went with the flow and hoped either it would stay working or that I'd get a chance further down the road to clean things up.

At any rate, I think it's the head of any IT department's job, implicit in that very position, that the network architecture have some documentation, and that things not just be stored in one's cranium.

Re:It will happen again, and continue to happen. (2, Informative)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340527)

Luckily these people are becoming less and less common. Why?

Bosses are getting smarter. Some of the bosses actually come from an IT background and know what is going on.

Computers are common. People even Non-IT people are use to using computers, and have a general high level idea what is going on.

SOX and ISO documentation is part of the job now not just a nice to have.

Global Competition, Big fishes in small ponds have been tossed into the ocean. Are you sure you are smarter then everyone else.

Saying it can't be done may lead to lets get bring in a consultant. If if the consultant say he can do it you are down knocked down a peg, and if you are that much of a jerk your boss won't be favorable about it.

So over time I see this becomming less and less and issue. However you they are still around. And when they get fired they will make a big fuss about it but overall the company will probably run better.

Re:It will happen again, and continue to happen. (3, Insightful)

geogob (569250) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339965)

While I was managing servers and network equipment for a small organization, I was for a very long period of time the only one to possess the low level access password for the equipment I managed. At the time, I was the only person responsible for all IT related affairs and I did not feel anyone else in the organization had the technical knowledge and integrity to posses these access.

On the other hand, all these access and relevant documentation was sealed and under lock with the instruction only to be retrieved in the event something happened to me (accident, incapacitation, death, etc.).

Not wanting to give out critical information to anyone is something (most of the time at least) responsible to do. Not assuring continuity or failing protecting the critical information to be lost through unforeseen circumstances, shows a serious lack of professionalism.

Re:It will happen again, and continue to happen. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24340127)

>At the time, I was the only person responsible for all IT related affairs and I did not feel anyone
>else in the organization had the technical knowledge and integrity to posses these access.

Either you were remiss in your responsibilities when it came to IT related affairs such as recruiting, hiring, training, and budgeting payroll, or you were not actually responsible for *all* IT related affairs.

Re:It will happen again, and continue to happen. (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340351)

There needs to be a recovery plan in place, but it's often not practical to have complete redundancy of the "the sysadmin is dead long live the sysadmin" variety.

As long as the system is stable and there is a process for succession of admins, thats about as good as it gets. And there will be "gotcha!" moments, and crap like that, but that is true with all IT gigs.

Re:It will happen again, and continue to happen. (2, Funny)

Wiarumas (919682) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339441)

One Word: Skynet

Singularity ftw.

Re:It will happen again, and continue to happen. (1)

Kingrames (858416) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339531)

"...and pray he isn't chaotic evil."

well, at least there's an 8 out of 9 chance that's the case.

Re:It will happen again, and continue to happen. (1)

AllIGotWasThisNick (1309495) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339807)

well, at least there's an 8 out of 9 chance that's the case.

You really think alignment is evenly distributed?

Re:It will happen again, and continue to happen. (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340535)

well, at least there's an 8 out of 9 chance that's the case.

You really think alignment is evenly distributed?

No. Cause all the Cool people are Chaotic Good. :)

IT Best Practices... (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339341)

...you're doing it wrong.

Just waterboard the guy... (3, Funny)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339345)

I mean, really. What do we have now? The guy loses control, flips out, locks everyone out of the system, they are down for who knows how long as they bring in crackers and consultants and what not, and the guy goes to jail.

But...

If you just waterboard the guy, until he coughs up the password, the system's not down for really any longer than it takes a Windows Update to screw everything up, so you can just let the guy who locked you out walk, instead of putting him in jail or prison for who knows how long.

Waterboard in this case would be simpler, safer, and better for everyone.

Re:Just waterboard the guy... (1)

jayveekay (735967) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339597)

One reason for not using torture to gather information is that the information gathered is typically unreliable. That is people will say anything to make the pain stop, regardless of whether it is true or false.

For password retrieval, where it is simple to verify the truthfulness of the response, that reason doesn't apply. So, I think your proposal has merit.

Remind me never to take a sysadmin job. :)

... and it isn't even illegal. (1)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339627)

And the best part? Cracking could be illegal, according to the DCMA. Waterboarding? Its legal!

Re:Just waterboard the guy... (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339683)

Actually he did not do any damage and left the system in a safe state. Since there was no damage done, SF has no claim against him.

Re:Just waterboard the guy... (1)

jeiler (1106393) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339761)

Actually he did not do any damage and left the system in a safe state.

A system that is one power-blink away from catastrophic failure with recovery specifically disabled is not in a "safe state." Though I quite accept that Childs was not malicious, he still screwed the pooch.

Re:Just waterboard the guy... (1)

PunkOfLinux (870955) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339885)

Making it impossible to manage should something go wrong *is* a sort of damage, albeit intangible.

Re:Just waterboard the guy... (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340265)

>Waterboard in this case would be simpler, safer, and better for everyone.

Isn't there a small but significant number of torturees who will choose to allow themselves to be drowned rather than give up the password?

And I wonder how effective waterboarding is on someone who has really been athletic and competitive in watersports, say, against a hardcore lifelong surfer? Someone who is already conditioned not to panic when they are upside down in a sea kayak while the gash on their head from hitting the lava rock is gushing out so much blood they can't see. (I've had that). I'm not convinced you could get information out of everyone by waterboarding, and I'm quite certain that now that it's known as a standard interrogation technique, intel communities condition their operatives to prepare for it. From waterboarding where do you go? Cutting off appendages and genitalia? Branding? And what happens when it becomes known that the city council used these techniques against an IT manager?

Re:Just waterboard the guy... (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340453)

Isn't there a small but significant number of torturees who will choose to allow themselves to be drowned rather than give up the password?

Then, you cap the time and extent of the waterboarding so that the guy doesn't die, and he's looking at a year in jail.

Someone who is already conditioned not to panic when they are upside down in a sea kayak while the gash on their head from hitting the lava rock is gushing out so much blood they can't see. (I've had that).

See, here's the thing, in the case of waterboarding, they stuff a towel down your mouth and puff it up with water, so that, some water definitely enters the airways and it -always- triggers the drowning / death reflex. It's a very brutal thing, but, the damage tends to be more psychological then physical, if you live through the stress of the torture itself.

From waterboarding where do you go? Cutting off appendages and genitalia? Branding? And what happens when it becomes known that the city council used these techniques against an IT manager

Absolutely not. Waterboarding is actually worse in some ways than all of those things. If they don't talk after being waterboarded, they aren't going to talk at all.

Here come the elephants. (5, Insightful)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339351)

I forget who said that "an elephant is a mouse designed by a committee." Sure, you can get paranoid about network design and control, and give the job to a committee. But that is going to be really clumsy.

The issue here really is not about size of the design team, it is about vetting the guy who does it. ( The guy who is in charge of the network for my business is someone who I really know and trust. He was best man at my wedding. )

Re:Here come the elephants. (4, Funny)

Spad (470073) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339553)

So he's going to change all your passwords *and* run off with your wife?

Re:Here come the elephants. (1)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339607)

The issue here really is not about size of the design team, it is about vetting the guy who does it. ( The guy who is in charge of the network for my business is someone who I really know and trust. He was best man at my wedding. )

What happens when he is hit by a big red bus?

Re:Here come the elephants. (1)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340251)

What happens when he is hit by a big red bus?

I do think that may be a valid crossover point. IE my company provides life insurance of 2.5x salary. The IT I take care of (not my main job, but I am the only IT guy) could be completely re-done in a week for significantly less than 1x my annual salary, plus downtime of 0.5X my salary.

Therefore if the death of the friend, and associated costs, is significantly higher than the cost of replacing the current un-documented work. Then that scenario shouldn't weigh heavily in the mind of the owner/manager.

If replacing the undocumented work costs more, then you either need to pay the guy more, or get some more help on the project.

Re:Here come the elephants. (1)

daveywest (937112) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339635)

That's hardly a qualifier. It's not like your best man is holding the rope to keep you from falling into molten lava. My brother was my best man, but that doesn't mean I'll trust him with my money or lively hood.

Re:Here come the elephants. (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340341)

It's not like your best man is holding the rope to keep you from falling into molten lava.

The guy got married! Clearly, the best man wasn't holding the rope right. :)

Re:Here come the elephants. (1)

Zadaz (950521) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339837)

Now I have to get married to find an employee worth trusting?

Re:Here come the elephants. (1)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339937)

"an elephant is a mouse designed by a committee."

The actual quote is: "A camel is a horse designed by a committee." And http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design_by_committee [wikipedia.org] Wiki attributes it to Vogue.

Re:Here come the elephants. (1)

Better.Safe.Than.Sor (836676) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340447)

Why, Terry Childs said it, right? Over and over and over . . .

The familiarity in this story isn't just the IT (1)

Aphoxema (1088507) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339361)

"Childs, an employee working for San Francisco's IT department, used his privileged access to lock everyone out of a crucial network for days."

I wonder if it wasn't an intentional lockout, instead someone realized all of a sudden that Childs was numero uno and saying "GIVE ME THE CODES NOW!" and when he didn't someone had a hissy fit and took things very far very quickly instead of competently sitting down and talking with Childs fairly.

Re:The familiarity in this story isn't just the IT (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339679)

Did you not read any of the articles? Oh, wait, I'm on /. Basically the guy sees the writing on the wall and includes the password equivalent of a dead-man's switch......switch goes off and he's the only one with a key.

Layne

There is no evidence of that... (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339863)

Basically the guy sees the writing on the wall and includes the password equivalent of a dead-man's switch.

Not according to insiders. He had *always* had the routers configured to clear when someone tried to guess the password, long before any of this started. Why he did this, I don't know... it seems extreme to me but for some networks it's probably appropriate... it IS a standard configuration in the routers. It sounds like someone or something convinced him that this was "best practices" for security, so that's what he did.

Re:There is no evidence of that... (1)

Aphoxema (1088507) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339931)

Maybe just almost-rational paranoia to keep someone from breaking into the network at some location to get confidential information... even though if someone has physical access to the router they've already gotten close enough.

Not news to nerds (4, Informative)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339401)

They claim that you should have more than one person that knows the password and configuation of the network. I work mainly in small-mid sized business; I have never heard of only one person knowing the password. In fact, the smaller the business, the more the owner wants to know the password (IME). Generally IT doesn't want $random_user to have the admin passwords. Also, everyone that has them is another person that can potentially "lock down" the system (see third para).

The configuration? Well I am not real sure what they mean? Basic configs such as IP addreses and such have been documented at even the shoddiest implementations I have seen. Plus, if you know how to run that server, you probably know or can find and make changes to the "configuration". But if there is only one person at that company that knows that server/technology, well then there is probably only one person that knows the configuation! What should the accounting manager know how to run our servers?

But the bigger issue is that in a SMB, and in my current positions, I could CHANGE THE PASSWORD!!! Doh, they forgot that you can do that!

TFA goes on to say things about hiring an administrator and then an auditor for the admin. WTF? Never heard of this happening in my career. I do know the military uses these methods, but that makes sense for them. The average sign printing company (even a 200 employee company) can't do that.

TFA highlights a situation that we all knew existed... and didn't even give a (reasonable) proposed solution.

Re:Not news to nerds (2, Informative)

GSMacLean (1333075) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340457)

It happens. I was called in to try to rescue a small web shop's hosting business. The hosting business was a side business of the web design shop, with two web servers, a database server, and a mail server. All the hosting stuff was run by one guy, he was the only one who knew the passwords, and they unfortunately went with him when he died on the operating table. Five months later, when the increasingly unpatched servers started falling victim to attacks, they called me to try to fix the mess. Of course there were no backups, no way of retrieving anything. It was a mess.

You asked for it, you got it. (4, Insightful)

mrroot (543673) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339415)

When you have already laid off everyone and downsized your IT department to so few employees, its kind of hard to avoid having a single person with so much power.

Re:You asked for it, you got it. (0, Troll)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339795)

Sadly, you're not the first to think along these lines of reasoning. You are a cock though.

=Smidge=

That's not all they're asking for (4, Insightful)

Nymz (905908) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340025)

Everyone knows the name of Terry Childs, but how many people know the name of the manager(s) in charge, the ones responsible (or negligent) for letting this situation continue until it got to this point.

"You asked for it, you got it." and you are spot on because if they don't correctly assess this current situation, and assign blame to the deserving names, then they are only 'asking for it' to happen again and again.

Opportunity for router vendors (3, Funny)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339431)

Cisco should start selling Childs-proof routers! *rimshot*

Opportunities abound! (1)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339667)

You mean... with those stupid lids? The ones I can't get off to save my life?

I guess they could use those annoying screws to secure the lids ... but then it is only childs-proof until he orders some online!

Business Mad Libs (2, Insightful)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339469)

Yes, this is prevalent. Unfortunately, no, it has precious little to do with IT.

This quote from TFA is quite true, but universally so. Let's play Business Mad Libs:

"Single points of failure are always bad," said John Pescatore,
an analyst at Gartner Inc. "There should never be one person who is
the only person who knows ____ MISSION CRITICAL INFORMATION ____."
Companies need to make sure there are at least two if not three people
who share the knowledge of ____ BUSINESS PROCESS______. "As a minimum,
require it to be documented and stored somewhere if personnel
limitations say you can't have personnel with overlap," Pescatore said.

Have fun playing the accounting, regulatory, legal, and R&D versions, just for warm-up.

Now, if the business managers weren't smart enough to either know this applied to IT as well as their other divisions, or not smart enough to not recognize that that they needed outside advice on how to apply business rules to IT - well, you have to wonder how well the other parts of their businesses are running.

its MANAGEMENT and CONTROL (0, Redundant)

JCOTTON (775912) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339491)

Used to be, in the good ol days of IT, or Data Processing as we used to call it, that the programmer was king. The programmer basically decreed what could and could not be done with the computer system. He was the analyst, programmer, tester, implementer, and documentation writer. And maybe trained users too.

Fast foreward to today

Management has placed so many controls on the development process. Fer example, we need to get Business owner's approval for starting work, testing, and then before move to production. We are monitored constantly. We fill out Remedy tickets for each stage of development. We can not do "systems" stuff, like even compile our own programs. Really. Every compile, move, and test is monitored and recorded.

Yep, management has certainly stepped in and taken control back.

I've forgotten what the original article was...wait a minute... oh yeh.

Anyway, I am thinking that the Frisco situation could not happen here. I am not afraid. But I really miss those days when I really had control of the development.

Re:its MANAGEMENT and CONTROL (1)

The Dancing Panda (1321121) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339655)

You can't compile your own programs? Where the hell do you work?

I'm in a CMMI-5 facility (The Process is God), and we compile our own programs. Do you mean compiling the final version to run in production? I guess we don't get to do that, the Tech Lead does (someone's got to...I would assume someone else would do it if she weren't here. It can't be all of us...). But if you can't compile your work, how do you find out if it works?

Re:its MANAGEMENT and CONTROL (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340367)

>But if you can't compile your work, how do you find out if it works?

In some environments, knowing it works while still in the editor is what separates the men from the boys.

This is silly (4, Insightful)

peipas (809350) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339541)

Of course there will be people in IT who have power, and of course that power can be abused.

Somebody at a television network has the power to broadcast rocking horse porn if they want to as well and there is no time machine to unrock that horse.

The articles hypes up one person being able to abuse power as if it were unique to IT and suggests a remedy that more than one person should have this power, as if this had any bearing on anything, e.g. the ability for the abuser to simply revoke access to others. What, somebody else should be assigned the exclusive ability to revoke? Then that person is the potential abuser. This is silly.

Re:This is silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24339987)

How many people in IT /do/ have the power to cause significant damage to their network? How often does this occur?

Gotta love the media. Something with a small probability happens and we need to jump to correct the issue.

Re:This is silly (1)

RManning (544016) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340005)

Not to be too a puritan here, but what the hell is rocking horse porn?

Re:This is silly (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24340363)

is that rocking-horse porn or rocking horse-porn?

What "incident"?? (4, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339551)

Apparently, a bunch of idiot managers realized all of a sudden that they had GIVEN one person control over a major network, and tried to seize back control. Also apparently, he did not trust them to keep it running properly. (And also apparently, rightly so.)

So where is the "incident"?? What did he do wrong?

By law he might have done "wrong" by not relinquishing the passwords immediately. But by the people of San Francisco, he may have saved them a lot of trouble and headaches. So, he was faced with a dilemma: obey the law, or do the right thing.

Sad.

Re:What "incident"?? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24339671)

And you would be exactly right. You can't trust idiots (Managers) with the keys to a network. Next thing you know, stuff is all screwed up and you're working overtime to fix something no one will fess up to fucking up. Better to not give up the password.

Re:What "incident"?? (1)

red4 (848284) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339853)

That's what I took from this as well, very sad. from what I've read about this, I can understand Mr. Child's motivation for not giving up the passwords but he should have anyway. It's not his network, this is just a job and certainly not worth going to jail over.

Not qualified to comment. (5, Funny)

Shaitan Apistos (1104613) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339569)

Whenever I register for a site where my email address is my username, the password I use happens to be the same password that I use for my email account.

With that in mind, I'm going to go ahead and not express any opinions on security.

Re:Not qualified to comment. (1)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339693)

Well, I guess I'll stop re-directing your netflix movies, and start checking your bank account...

You say potato... (2, Insightful)

mweather (1089505) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339591)

You call it dangerous, I call it job security.

Here's a simple solution... (3, Insightful)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339623)

It's called Seperation of Duties [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Here's a simple solution... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24339855)

a) that doesn't work in ANY small and probably most medium sized businesses

b) how do you separate password changes?

Yes you could and should, if you have the man power, separate stuff out so the same person doesn't have the keys to the servers and the network gear. Better yet, if you're of the size and have the man power several people have keys, each to different servers and parts of the network so no one person can lock out the entire thing. That's ideal, but far from possibly in any small business, I doubt it's possibly in many medium sized businesses (I know it's not at our company) and possibly unlikely in some large businesses.

Re:Here's a simple solution... (2, Insightful)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340011)

a) that doesn't work in ANY small and probably most medium sized businesses

Small business,no, but then again most small business's, if they do have a network, is well small and not a big deal. I used to setup networks for small companies, most are ad hoc, no dedicated server types, where everyone has admin privileges. A medium size company should be able to do it. As long as you another IT person you can separate the duties amongst them. Hell, I'm one of just four InfoSec people and we share all responsibilities and admin rights.

HA! (4, Interesting)

Splab (574204) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339739)

As if it's ITs fault. Most companies I've worked at I have pointed this very situation out and usually get overruled based on the cost of doing it "right".

(It isn't enough to have several people with the password, you need to know how to recover if you lose total communication with the guy responsible - ig. died.)

Also it isn't just IT. Last months pay got delayed at my company, which really shouldn't happen since KPMG is responsible for taking care of payments for our company. The reason? The lady responsible for authorizing the transfer was the only one with the passwords to do so, and she was in labor.

Replacements? (2, Interesting)

phorm (591458) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340263)

I know people in various industries who consider obscure hacks, lack of documentation, etc "job security."

To me, being the guy who can do it all is great for job security, but the flip-side is that if you're the *only* guy that can handle things... sure, you're semi-irreplacable, but that applies equally to being fired as when you want to take a day off or holiday. Personally, I prefer work-competence as a reason for not being fired, and documentation/standardization as a way to ensure that somebody else can back me up when I want to take a few weeks off (real time off, as in not near a computer and not "on call" with a pager/cellphone going off in my pants pocket next to the pool).

A Lesson from Star Wars (5, Insightful)

jackspenn (682188) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339817)

Some people on /. think it is best to have one knowledgeable person with all the information so that confidential information is not leaked or changes made without the lead guy being aware.

Others think of the bus rule, what happens if the guy who knows everything about mission critical infrastructure components gets hit by a bus?

That is why I have taken a page from the Sith Lord Darth Bane and apply the rule of two. When I build a network I teach and train one apprentice. Then if they suck I fire them and hire a replacement, but if they are good, when I get bored and decided to move on, I feel confident they can take on a apprentice themselves.

It is neat, clean and simple, better still it doesn't have the rules and complexity of Jedi type systems requiring me to check in docs to a source control system, report changes to managers what don't understand, have managers that don't understand sign-off on things they don't understand and avoid dumb rules like not being able to train techs that appear to old, etc.

Yeh, if you ask me the Republic, I mean Network as a whole is best off with Sith types in charge versus bureaucratic Jedi types.

Re:A Lesson from Star Wars (1)

mindstrm (20013) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340181)

Actually.. that's remarkably great advice.

The Childs story stinks like five day old fish (4, Insightful)

99luftballon (838486) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339823)

The more I see on this case the more I think Childs is being set up as a scapegoat. The guy built the networking side from scratch and it seems management were happy with him running it with sole admin rights. Then a new admin comes in and he freaks out and gets overprotective. And a $5 million bail? Murderers don't get that much.

Re:The Childs story stinks like five day old fish (1)

dafz1 (604262) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340243)

Something tells me that Mr. Childs will be getting $5 mil. from the city of SF after he's exonerated.

Re:The Childs story stinks like five day old fish (1)

TRRosen (720617) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340413)

The city will be lucky to get out of this for only 5 million.

uhhh, a wall safe? (1)

ag3ntugly (636404) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339849)

I totally agree that there should always be 1 person holding all the keys, and that they should give them out as needed, and at thier discretion. However, you also need insurance. How about keeping a manilla envelope, with important admin passwords and configuration info, locked in a wall safe that only the admin and a trusted keeper (say a manager, or a college) know the combination to. If the admin goes bonkers, sure they can change the passwords and you're screwed, but you can't really prepare for the onset of batshiat-crazy, but if the admin gets hit by a bus, his boss can open the safe, break the seal on the envelope, and minimize the damage done by losing the admin.

I know you shouldn't write passwords down, but there's a difference between a sticky note under a keyboard and a sealed envelope in a safe someplace.

Re:uhhh, a wall safe? (1)

ag3ntugly (636404) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339963)

s/college/collegue

SF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24339861)

Anyone else read that as "SourceForge Not an Exception In Giving IT Too Much Control" ?

Lord of the Passwords! (0)

failedlogic (627314) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339877)

I elect to become the Lord of the Passwords.

Lord of the Passwords! ??? Profit. Definitely.

Why? To enhance my resume and make me rich.

Why? Simply, its the ultimate backup to the getting hit by a bus. If you and the VP/President who are trusted password holders are hit by a bus, how will your company survive? I will not go outside. No bus will ever hit me.

Make your legacy count for something. Don't let your work go to waste. Hire me today!

CP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24339907)

Terry Childs hijacked the network so he could traffic Childs porn without legal repercussion. Look it up.

begging for attention (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24339909)

1) Some people work in an environment where you can't pass on the knowledge even with considerable effort. No-one wants to know. And when you do give people the passwords they really don't get kept safely. No-one documents the abuses that did not happen because Childs kept the passwords to himself and they did not wind up in a spreadsheet on a central file server that anyone can access. There seems to be no middle ground here - one must either keep the password to ones self or post it on facebook.

2) This case was notable because his mgmt did not have the passwords. But when someone goes psyco it's the fact that they have the password that's the problem. Giving passwords to more people means more potential psycos have access

Can't sell trust. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24339915)

I am apart of a SMALL IT firm. We run into this ALL the time.

We have run into clients who's own domain name is not owned by them but their support staff that purchased it. When the service provider is fired due to breach of contract or SLA, they often take the name down until the final invoice is received. This is often in dispute because the last month of work has many extras. Their domain name is held hostage!

We both hold to the same worldview which allows us to have full trust of each other and our clients trust us. We have access to each other's email and passwords for work related stuff.

Whenever we get a new client, we examine all their records and make sure we have passwords to everything. We give the client everything and alert them to any changes.

You can't sell trust, but clients know it or learn it.

Why can't the people in charge... (1)

wattrlz (1162603) | more than 6 years ago | (#24339953)

...take five minutes to learn enough about the system to notice when something's going wrong? Anybody who has access to a big, important system like this has power. The problems arise when only one person knows enough about what he's doing to actually use it.

What is it with government IT management? (1)

walterbyrd (182728) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340007)

Has anybody else noticed that these reports of gross IT mis-management are almost always government related?

I think there was another story on slashdot, a while back about some guy who accidentally deleted one billion dollars worth of records, and there was no backup. When I was in Florida, there was some scandal about the state spending millions on this new welfare computer system, and the entire thing was borked, so they hired the same company to fix it, and the company borked it again.

Sure, we laugh at the corporate PHBs, but a lot of government IT management seems to make Dilbert's world seem efficient, by contrast.

Re:What is it with government IT management? (2, Insightful)

Shados (741919) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340093)

Thats because only the government related ones concern the public. This stuff happens all the time in the private sector. However, private companies can die, the government cannot (as much as some people around here would like it to)

IT is at its core arcane and requires *trust* (1)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340069)

The administrators *need* access to the highest level of security. Maybe software and operating systems as a whole need to be rebuilt in the shape of a military complex where sensitive access does not have to be granted to the builders.

But, hey, even the builders see the vaults before they are used.

this is amazing how? (1)

BlueZombie (913382) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340087)

I'd guess that 99.999% of problems like this are not malicious. It just happens through neglect, short budgets, tight deadlines, and attrition. Until you wake up one day and they tell you that Bob got hit by a bus last night and we absolutely have to get the forecast report fixed by 08:00 AM for Mr Johnston's breakfast meeting with the CEO or HEADS WILL ROLL. But now, some guy finally did what many of us have joked about. And so there will be PHB's around the world in a panic for fear that their quiet, abused little drones might turn on them. Wo while they are taking a moment to burn off a donut or two, here's an idea for them to contemplate. Don't give your workers a reason to hate you.

Hire enough people to do the job right (1)

SABME (524360) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340097)

This is a question of management not hiring enough people to do things right. What happens if the one guy who knows everything goes on vacation? If he never went on vacation, no one would say boo because, in our warped culture, having a desire to do anything but work around the clock is somehow abnormal.

Less control... how about more staff? (4, Insightful)

phorm (591458) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340103)

Seems to me that in many cases, the IT department may be rather grossly understaffed (either in terms of # of staff, or # of experienced staff).

Many places I've worked end up with a Lord-of-all-IT situation simply because they haven't got anyone who can replace him* or back him up, or weren't willing to pay for backup/additional/experienced staff.

* male gender used for convenience purposes.

Banks deal with this (5, Insightful)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340143)

One of my first jobs was a bank teller. Our passwords were sealed in an envelop, which we initialed, and locked in a vault which needed two keys to open.

If the two officers needed my password, they'd open the vault, open the envelope, breaking my seal (letting me off the hook of responsibility).

IT has to learn from banks.

Fir5t p0st (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24340153)

are inherently Usenet posts. the latest Netcraft be forgotten in a Share, this ne3s RomeoE and Juliet

None Of This Is The Issue.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24340231)

This is an "Atlas Shrugged" issue.

There is no problem with IT security, or "one person having too much control" in this situation, but I'm sure every two-bit security "consultant" and trade magazine will love to sell you services and software to secure your network. The issue here is when you strip an organization of all of it's value and hire people that are sub-par in skills and general morality, you get this result.

This guy took the actions he did to stop a corrupt and incompetent management from doing more damage to the city of San Francisco.

I don't agree with his actions, but I certainly understand what produces this kind of frustration.

Just like Ayn Rand writes, when the power fails finally, and some corporate frigtard comes waving a lot of money for me to help analyze the situation and get it running again, count me in with "NO.". I'll be very happy on my self-sustaining farm with other people that are tired of technology-wannabees with CFO's behind them that are paid large bonuses to cut IT costs as much as possible.

The issue here is the never ending cycle of people who don't know IT, running IT, based on counting money instead of calculating value reaching for that which is corrupt and foul when their short-sighted schemes fall down.

These management frigtards need to go back to school to learn what value is instead of worshipping the damn dollar, euro, or whatever.

They should rename this article (1)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340233)

"Master Blaster owns Bartertown."

It depends on who the "one person" is (2, Insightful)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340257)

It really depends on who the "one person" is. Committees rarely design good crypto algorithms or protocols, for example. On the other hand, if you just pick the "one person" at random, you risk picking the wrong person.

I guess it's sort of like picking a dictator. If you pick the right person, and hold that person accountable, they will get things done more efficiently than a committee. If you pick the wrong person, they will get the wrong things done more efficiently than a committee.

Human Intervention (1)

aarenz (1009365) | more than 6 years ago | (#24340405)

I doubt that there is a system, besides firing a nuclear weapon, that is able to be configured so that two people always have to agree to a system change. The top level account on any system, network or device will always have the powere to change all other passwords or disable them and then walk away. This is a common item at any time a person is involved. The issue of when a person will snap and if they should be trusted can be examined, but that is not a perfect science since the person may have a problem in their personal life that makes them go over the edge.

All computers would run perfectly forever if they had not users(carbon based units) using them and programming them.

There are ways to create systems and methods to recover from an incedent like that, but since they are fairly rare, the cost/benefit/probability of the risk is hard to sell to management.

Bottom line is absolute power corrupts absolutely. If you have people, you will have people problems. Deal with it or take your ball and go home.

Nuff said.
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