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today’s dilbert:

i couldn’t buy the software i need to do my job because of your freeze on expenses.
and our IS-policy says i can’t use the freeware version that is readily available.
so i used the week to develop some new coffee sipping noises.

reminds me on a situation i had with a big IT company i worked for as a consultant:

they wouldn’t allow me to use my own notebook (well, i could have paid 105 a month for WiFi-access in their office building..!). they were using office 97, netscape 4.7 (while firefox was forbidden due to security reasons) and other archaic wonders. many websites were blocked (like the city’s main event guide), their proxy servers even decrypted HTTPS-sessions and neither my webmail (being on a different port) nor POP-access worked.

they had needed an interim manager urgently so i handed over the project i was doing before to someone else and moved to the far away city, all within a few days. i simply had to get access to my emails to be available for questions for the project i had handed over so i decided to install a tool that bypassed their proxy servers. i informed my boss (he was suffering as well, everyone was) who just commented with something like “you little hacker..”.

two months later an IT security guy popped up and sharpely demanded a meeting. it turned out that a couple of programmers had installed the same tool and used it for something noticeably affecting the available bandwidth, supposedly downloading music or films. they were sacked immediately (couldn’t even say goodbye to their collegues, they were escorted to the exit by security staff). for me, he sad, they could content themselves with resetting my PC and an apology as they had checked my internet activity and hadn’t found any harmful or illegal use. the funny thing: it didn’t seem to be a security risk to take all data (quite sensitive data) home on my USB-stick while they set up the computer – they even asked me to.

three weeks later my cosulting contract abruptly ended, as someone had complained to management about “double standards”, with those guys having been sacked and not me. finally the use of the tool had done harm, as the project i had been on quite suffered by my leaving. (sidenote: i then found it quite funny that they hired me again for another project.)

i must admit that it indeed was an error and a potental security threat to use that tool, and i wouldn’t do it again. yet i believe that the bigger threat for the security of a company is such a rigid IT policy, reducing productivity (have you tried editing large docs in word 97 or surfing the web in netscape 4.7..?), creating an atmosphere of distrust and duty instead of creativity and committment.


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