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Do Not Annoy IT Part 1

2010-01-13

Category: General

There are two key words in I.T. Those words are "Information" and "Technology". If you really think about what people in this field do, why would you ever want to annoy them? Despite what is obvious to some, there are many who remain oblivious to the fact that sleeping tigers do occasionally wake.

In truth, most I.T. people are way too ethical to unleash their full fury on those who annoy them. We know you pay us because companies can trust us to support the feeble minded rather than feed them through the wood chipper. On rare occasion, employers abuse this trust to the point that the repercussions are worth it. Since I.T. people are just that, people, the targets of the unleashed anger do not fare well.

Let's look at the first part of the name. The "I" stands for "Information". We specialize in collecting, manipulating, storing, and transmitting information about all sorts of things. This means we have information that you may not know about. Think for a moment about the things you may have done and how many of them you want made public, even if they were legal and ethical.

The "T" stands for "Technology". That means we have the actual means to keep track of the information. Surveillance tools may be watching you at any moment. Every document that touches your computer is in our domain. Your cell phone is a little computer that digitizes your voice, and the sounds in your environment, time stamps the digital parts, and transmits them through a complex system of other computers, any of which can decide to keep a copy for old times' sake.

Should we look at some ethical reasons why this could be a danger?

If your employer provides you with your computer at work, you have no expectation of a right to privacy. Though different locales have different interpretations of this, in general anything on that computer belongs to the employer. That means the employer, and agents thereof, can go in at any time. That means you should not have anything on your computer that you do not want your employer to see.

The same applies with other technology supplied by the employer, such as cell phones, PDAs, and automobiles. Why would automobiles be in this list? Simple, many of them have some sort of tracking capability. If you claim the deal fell through for no reason but the car's record says you were in a cheap motel on the other side of town at the time, your employer may think you are not all that employable any more.

Though this one is a bit murky, if you are allowed extra access to work computers from your home computer, your former employer may feel the need to litigate to take a look at your home computer to make sure you don't have the company's intellectual property. If there is a chance that you could, there is a chance they will be successful. How many files on your home computer do you want to keep private?

When the computer network people discuss bandwidth, they are talking about the amount of information that can go through the wires at any given moment. Sometimes they discuss maximum bandwidth, which is the largest amount of data their cables can send at a time. Other than that, they are talking about the amount of data actually going through. This is important.

If all current bandwidth is almost equal to the maximum bandwidth, then no more information can go through until the current stuff is done. In a large company this means everyone has to wait until room opens up on the network before they can do their networks stuff. (Network stuff includes sending emails, logging in, reaching files on shared drives, reaching databases, and reaching the Internet.) Because this is so important, the System Administrators are always on the lookout for bandwidths hogs. Usually, such heavy use will send an alert to the Administrator. They need to hunt this down fast so the rest of the company can get back to work.

One type of bandwidth hog is the infected computer. Malicious software, like viruses and worms, will get on the computer and take over. Then it will use the computer to launch attacks out into the world. This is not the worst offender though.

Do you know what else uses a lot of bandwidth? Downloading movies or videos uses a lot of bandwidth. Imagine the System Administrator reacting to an alarm and needing to hunt it down to make sure that there are no viruses and then finds out that it is you watching movies. That's what goes into the trouble logs; you were at your desk watching movies instead of working. If you were lucky, the movie was work safe. The phrase "work safe" means that it was not pornographic.

Imagine that you are on vacation and a customer swears he sent you the needed data in an email. You can't be reached because you are on the beach. Your employer calls in the tech guys and tells them to search your email to find the needed info. Guess what happens if the techs find another email that you wouldn't want the employer to see. That's right; your vacation goes permanent. If you were nice to your I.T. staff, there is the slight chance that a minor infraction would not be worth mentioning.

You may have heard all the warnings about not posting personal information on web sites. Once on the Internet, the info is permanent. Did you know, however, that many public records are available on the Internet now? How about newspapers, did you know you can access many newspaper archives on the web? These things mean that you need to be aware of things you do in public as well, because we have access to that information and can use it to make decisions about you.

Finally, most employers want to be fully compliant with law enforcement and related activities. That means any blatant criminal activity needs to be reported immediately and any attempt to alter the data is evidence tampering. That's a bad thing. This means that most employers won't cover your butt out of rational self-interest.

If the police shows up with a warrant, the computers, emails, server logs, and everything else belongs to them. The police technicians will be actively looking at every bit of data. They will find your folder filled with funny cartoons and kitten pictures. If you're lucky, they won't find anything else.

Similar to warrants are subpoenas. This isn't about federal agents looking for your stash of monkey porn; this is probably someone suing you over something. Their lawyer convinced a judge that you almost definitely have bad things on your computer that need to be brought to light.

The worst part about warrants and subpoenas is that, though we've made good progress, there is no guarantee that the judges or officers involved have any idea what they are looking for. To be on the safe side, they have to take everything. Then they keep all your stuff while they wait for their expert to go through it. In most cases, these days the expert really is an over worked expert that knows what he or she is doing. On occasion, you may still have the cops call in Cousin Bill because he once owned part of that computer store that went under a few years back and is likely to know something about these here computers.

What should you take from all of this?

Simple, there are plenty of legitimate reasons for the I.T. guys to hand your information over to people who can change your life. For that reason, you should learn as much as you can about the technology you use, the tools of tour trade these days, and be careful. Don't put anything on the computer that you don't want everybody else to know.

The other thing is that you want to be your I.T. person's best buddy. If you are friendly, many minor transgressions become training issues. You didn't know any better and, as long as you promise not to violate protocol again, we can let it slide this time. If, however, you are a constant thorn in the paw of the I.T. guy, the trouble ticket will have your name and phrases like "consistent", "not qualified", and "expensive".


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