Humor: Know your System Administrator

I laughed out loud for 5 minutes reading through a joke, called Know Your Sysadmin, harvested from old email archives.  It goes on about all the different prototypical administrators through the eons.  Here’s my favorite entry:

SITUATION:

Stupid user questions

TECHNICAL THUG:

Answers question in hex, binary, postfix, and/or French until user gives up and goes away.

ADMINISTRATIVE FASCIST:

Locks user’s account until user can present documentation demonstrating their qualification to use the machine.

MANIAC:

# cat > > ~luser/.cshrc alias vi ‘rm \!*;unalias vi;grep -v BoZo ~/.cshrc > ~/.z; mv -f ~/.z ~/.cshrc’ ^D

IDIOT:

Answers all questions to best of his knowledge. Recruits user to system administration team.

Kudos to nixCraft for linking to it!

Dissolution of virus authoring group, 29a, and increase in threat environment

David Douthitt, of Administratosphere, posted today about a group of virus authors in the UK is self-disbanding. He went on to speak about how the ecology of IT threats has changed over the years. His observations are all on-point and accurate.

For years I was on the anti-spam team for Sprint Nextel’s production network. That is, we protected Sprint Nextel’s customers, not Sprint Nextel’s employees. During that time we trialed Microsoft’s Hosted Spam Protection, ala bigfish.com, but eventually went with Ironport appliances that also strip off virus ridden email. Frankly bigfish.com was fairly unimpressive, with up to 16hour delays of email and zero responsiveness to complaints. I only bring this up, because when I was in San Bruno meeting with Ironport’s senior IT guys, they really helped me understand how the cute black hats are gone and the mafia has moved in.

The environment has changed. We will some day look back to the early days of virus authoring and probably even spyware authoring as just a bunch of pranksters playing around. Kids flexing their IT muscles because their professors couldn’t challenge them with a lab big enough or a problem complex enough. I already tell stories of the early days when Cult of the Dead Cow were spoofing everyone with their Pave The Planet movement to other geeky friends. Nevermind the kid who tried to convince me that he was Eli Ladopoulos, aka Ac1dphreak, yet he couldn’t ferry files to me over the internet and instead snail-mailed me a 3.5″ floppy of junk.

Unfortunately, the current threats are people who are working for organized crime syndicates around the world. Some of them run their own DNS servers, some of them own whole blocks of IP ranges and they are all just looking for straight out money.

Until identity theft, online extortion and destruction of intellectual property is perceived by law enforcement as actual crimes, then we’re all stuck in a reactive mode. Yes, some of the spam kings are getting big sentences when they rarely find them, but law enforcement really needs to start taking these things seriously. As do insurance companies. If my computer was destroyed by a virus today, it would take around $500 worth of my time to get it back up and running. If my identity was stolen I could easily lose ten’s of thousands of dollars in actual real money, lower credit scores and problems with future employment. But if I filed a report with the FBI, I’m not very sure that they would take it seriously. And if I filed the report with my insurance I believe I’d have a very hard time justifying the amounts of legitimate damage to them.

While I am concerned about the security of my personal information I am much more concerned about my responsibility as a Systems Integrator. I have an obligation to the people within my organization and to the people my organization serves to protect their information with all the tools available to me. I can’t fix law enforcement or insurance problems but I can design correctly, publicly advocate better policies and protect my end users from these criminals.