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Battling IT Nazis

, posted: 17-Jan-2007 17:34

It seems that Political Correctness and Creeping Socialism and Rabid Fixation with Carbon are not the only insidious forces at work. I write of the ugly workplace menace: the IT Nazis. In the name of protecting the corporate crown jewels (in the form of the company network and all the precious information and hardware therein), public companies are morphing into 13th Century castles to defend against ferocious and marauding viruses, trojans, hackers and spambots. At the same time, there is a need to continue to communicate with the outside world. So there is a main gate, guarded by the gatekeeper who vets what is allowed in or out. But it's much smarter. It can deny passage for messages from and to any undesirable foreign location, effectively blocking all "dubious" web sites. Now the technology box is opened, it is no longer sufficient to block porn -- we can now block access to sites deemed "unproductive" (such as auctions, dating, gambling, chat rooms). Instant messaging is long gone. Web mail programs are explicitly targeted. Why? Presumably because they are potential sources of malware. This is despite having anti-virus and anti-spyware software on the client PCs. And staff who try to keep their personal and work email separate (by having a web mail account for personal use), can no longer do so. The latest victim at my work, in this guerilla war of continual encroachment, is the highly-rated RSS client, Google Reader. Why? For fear it might open a way to access Google Mail. This is despite the fact that USB Memory sticks, iPods, MP3 players, PocketPCs and SmartPhones connect blithely to the internal network, with nary a sideways glance. All are potential sources for harm to a network. It's time to fight back. Richard Semler, author of "Maverick", and nominally the head of Semco, a large conglomerate of companies based in Brazil, has no such IT fortress mentality. His workers are allowed to use the internet for whatever they want to. The problem is not the technology -- it is the people. If people have interesting work, with a vested interest in their group's financial success, and an awareness of the company's costs and profitability, they will quickly realise what is and is not worth doing at work. And their coworkers, who share the rewards for their team's profitability, will keep those in line who are tempted to overindulge. We don't need such a dictatorial regime. We don't need little IT Hitlers making life at work less and less enjoyable. Trouble is... how? (Suggestions, preferably legal ones, are welcome.) Tactic #1 Keep asking WHY? (from Semler)


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Comment by barf, on 17-Jan-2007 19:13

it's very easy to circumvent most content filters that allow HTTP/SSL out.

setup an SSH server on port 443 and run squid on the same box. then through the magic of 'ssh -L 3128:127.0.0.1:3128' you have a proxy listening on 127.0.0.1 of the PC behind the firewall.


Comment by Jim Donovan, on 9-May-2007 23:27

Too many process-bound organisations do this. Good organisations and good processes are essentially and always driven by good behaviours and good cultures. Compliance, proscription and pre-approval is the wromg waay! Yes, you need to build in safeguards and fail-safes, but first and foremost get the modus operandi right - how we do things round here. It becomes self-policing. However, that means when your people alert you (and they will) to the ratbags who abuse the freedom, you need to act.


Author's note by dmw, on 10-May-2007 07:33

Thanks Jim for your thoughtful response.

The problem I've found is that when the company needed to act (because of a single ratbag), their response was to raise the external shields -- affecting everybody -- instead of dealing with the individual culprit.


I'm now in the awkward position of having a brand new laptop (my property) that I'm reluctant to connect to the corporate domain -- because of all the nasty group policy lockdowns that will be imposed. (Even affecting me when I'm at home, logged in as a local administrator on the same machine. Arrrghh!)


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David White
Auckland
New Zealand


Goon fan, .NET developer, contrarian seeker of truth