Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Paranoia: How Protective is Too Protective (when it comes to inconveniencing computer techs)

Yesterday, I had done work at a client that believe that the last person she had hired stole information from her.  My partner and I found some evidence supporting this, like a VB script that was emailing data to his address unbenounced to her, and the fact that the former tech had the login information to their backup service.  However, there wasn't anything solid to say that he was committing identity theft or anything similar.  He could have informed the client of this system of his, and she agreed without fully understanding what he was doing.

In this day in age, a.k.a. post-9/11 world, a.k.a. the time pedophiles can stalk kids over the internet, a.k.a. the Facebook is stealing my privacy age, a.k.a. not quite Y2K but still widespread ignorance-induced panic over technology, the average person has very little idea of digital privacy.  The truth is, they are legitimately right to be suspecting of anyone who knows computers more than they do.

As a network administrator, it's very scary to realize how power I had over my clients.  My last company would install domain controllers, and completely overhaul their network not so much to make their lives easier, but to make ours easier.  This was all done solely to give us almost complete control of their network.  Mind you, this was done with pure intentions, and to help us troubleshoot for our customers faster and easier, which in the end did make their lives easier in byproduct.

But you need to understand that we have complete access to their information.  We could view anything and everything our clients kept in digital form.  For private schools, we knew names, address, phone numbers, even the religion of their students.  We'd also have everything there is to know about the faculty, and every letter and document they write.  If they had a email server they bought from us, we could view them too.  That's not even the half of it.  At anytime, I could have damage any one of your clients.  Actually, scratch that.  I could have destroyed any one of them.

At best, I could easily and instantly erase all of your information, including your backups.  Even if you didn't have our email services, I could also prevent you from using it in your office.  I could remotely uninstall programs on your machines.  I could even delete your OS directory.  I could make your work a living nightmare.  I could remote in any of your workstations and change your desktop background to porn or something that said, "I SUCK DICKS UNDER THE UTOPIA UNDERPASS AT NIGHT".  Hell, I could remote in while you were working and do something humiliating or compromising and make it look like you were doing it yourself.  I couldn't have just ruined your business, I could have ruined you.

But I can't really describe more, not just of respect for our clients, but because I've actively avoided finding out such information whenever I could.  You see, I'm a very private person.  So private that not only do I divulge little about myself to others, but the very idea of finding out other people's private information makes me feel awful.

But the other thing is was that is was necessary.  We need administrative access to do anything significant.  We need to know the ins and outs of your network in order to help you if something on it was malfunctioning.  And while we don't need to know exactly where you and your staff lives or what was on that memo you wrote last week, but if something happened to it and you asked us for help retrieving it, there's nothing stopping us from reading it if we find it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dumb Co-worker Story #002

Continuing with the guy I wrote about in my last entry, I had complained to my bosses about him on occasion, but they had said they felt sorry for him and felt it would be too mean to let him go.  On top of that, they had already assigned him a bunch of service calls, and firing him would bring their schedule out of wack.  They were already having trouble after firing the last guy, who had only worked for them for five weeks.  Yes, we had someone worse.  I'll write about him in the future.

One day, both of us went to a client, another private school, to take care of some various workstation problems.  We had a long list of what needed to be done, and was set to stay for the entire day.  By the end of the day, I ended up fixing most of the problems.  By this time, I had him look at one classroom machine that sound card problems, mostly to keep him busy for the duration of our stay.  I had gotten used to working with him at this point, so as long as I had him distracted in anyway, I was content.

However, that day made me realize that this guy was not just bad with computers, he was just an idiot all around.  Early on, after leaving him in the lab, I headed to the restroom.  I mentioned to him where it was out of courtesy before walking out.

He got up to follow me.  At first, I thought he misheard me, thinking that I was going to show him another machine with some problem.  Standing in the doorway, I said to him, "No, I'm going to the bathroom.  I'm just letting you know it's in the next room."

Stepping foot in the restroom, I turned around to close the door.  Like in a horror movie, he was standing right behind me.

"What about the bathroom?", he asked.

"Joseph, I was just letting you know where the men's room was should you need to go."

There was a long pause.  He stared at me perfectly still.  My hand slowly reached for my multitool blade, for I feared the worst.  Then I gave him the benefit of the doubt of him being a psycho rapist.

"You know... for the future?", I continued, after hesitation for fear of coming off as insulting.

Another brief pause.  First I was relieved he didn't take offense, but then was immediately horrified and then extremely agitated that he still didn't get it.  It was then I regretted saying anything in the first place, not just because of this extremely awkward moment, but because the floor we were on only had two rooms.  Even he would have figured out where the restroom was by himself.

"Oh!", he exclaims.  Relief.  He finally got it.  We were going to have a quick laugh, he would then act slightly embarrassed, maybe even crack a joke or two.

Nope, none of that happened.  "Oh, right! Like if I needed to go later!", as he walked away looking at the ground.  He was either amazing at hiding his own shame, or he had just been given the greatest revelation in his life.

Not one hour later.  "Hey, do you know where the bathroom is?", asking with a perfectly straight face. "Right next door.", anticipating him laughing afterwards.  Again... nothing.  He walked right towards the door, head down, looking at the ground, absolutely silent.

I would like to reiterate that the floor we were on only had two rooms, the computer lab he was working in, and the other with the restroom, both of them right next to each other.  He needed directions to the room next door.

Some days I wondered if Andy Kaufman hadn't really died but instead disguised himself as this guy fucking with me to get his kicks.  There are also some days I theorized God is an autistic child playing Spore.  I beg anyone reading this to let me know which idea is more ridiculous.  I'm too afraid to ask my therapist.

That day, the only solace I had from learning my co-worker was borderline retarded was also learning he was most likely not a total creeper.  From that day on, I never said anything about him to my superiors.  I felt sorry for him and felt it would be too mean to complain.