Home > Security News > San Francisco Network Engineer Goes Berserk

San Francisco Network Engineer Goes Berserk

The news today is reporting that the City of San Francisco computer systems have been hijacked by a rogue network engineer. The highly-paid employee of the city’s technical department had been exhibiting increasingly erratic behavior which culminated in his locking out all administrative access to the systems and refusing to divulge the password. The 43-year-old individual had been hired in spite of a felony record for aggravated robbery 25 years prior.

Two thoughts come to mind. First, the glaringly obvious: Knowingly hiring an individual with a criminal history for such a sensitive position was probably not a good idea. Second, it is essential to ensure that people in trusted positions are worthy of that trust. If ethics and work-life balance take a back seat to technical competence in a prospective job applicant’s value system, wise employers look elsewhere.

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Categories: Security News
  1. Darrell
    July 25, 2008 at 3:51 PM | #1

    You make some good points but can you really know someone. I think the ability for one individual to have such power is clearly the problem.

    Additionally, this is not the first incident of this. I recently heard about an IT department at a company holding the company’s data hostage by locking everyone out.

    In most companies there are individuals at different locations. Having the IT staff not know one another and having multiple people who cannot lock each other out is the key.

  2. Jacob Gajek
    July 25, 2008 at 8:14 PM | #2

    You are correct, Darrell. Ideally, control and access to critical systems would be distributed among multiple individuals.

    An interesting example of this is something we have implemented with PGP Universal Server in our organization. We have a PGP admin account that has the ability to decrypt any user’s data. However, in order to prevent abuse, this admin key is split among four staff members. If the master decrypt function is needed, three of the four individuals must supply their piece of the key.

    In my opinion, if more systems had such functionality, we would have a lot less insider abuse. A recent statistic I have seen had as many as one in three system admins abusing their privileged access.

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