breaking up is hard to do…

What do you MEAN Im fired?
What do you MEAN I'm fired?

I noticed a couple of stories about ex employees wreaking computer havoc on their ex employers out on the internets today.  In the first one, an IT admin fired from “a large IT company” in May was able to remotely login to his ex employer’s network in AUGUST and delete files, shut down servers and otherwise express his displeasure at joining the ranks of the unemployed.  Our second contestant was fired from a Texas non profit which coordinates all of the organ transplants in the state.   Nice.  Hope she needs a liver or something during her 2 year prison stay.  In her case, the damage was done the evening of and day after her termination.

Unfortunately, these stories are not that rare.    People sometimes do rash, stupid things when they are fired, and the current economy and its attendant lack of new prospects can make such revenge seem more attractive to some people.  When IT people pull this kind of stunt, the results can be really expensive – and embarrassing.

So what should companies do to prevent this type of incident?

Have a termination checklist – while your HR folks are breaking the news to the soon to be ex employee, your IT and security staff should be turning off all of their access (physical and logical) to the company.  Start by deactivating their access cards and their remote access to the network; if you take care of these two items first, you can avoid most problems later.

Let people in the company know about the departure of their colleague. Be respectful, but get the word out.  Simply saying that “So and so has left the firm effective immediately to pursue other opportunities” should do the trick.  You might also want to wish them “the best of luck in their future endeavors.”

If the person being terminated is in IT, take extra care. Work with someone who is familiar with their access and the company systems to map out all of the systems that they have access to in advance of the termination.  If you are a small business with a one person IT department, it might be worth the expense to bring in a consultant to assist in doing this.

Don’t forget to inform any vendors and service providers that the terminated employee worked with that they are moving on and no longer authorized to act on behalf of the company. If you do this by phone, follow up with a letter.

Taking these few steps can keep YOUR company from being the subject of my Paranoid Prose (or worse yet, a real news outlet that gets read by more than six people).

breaking up is hard to do…

before the internet – the hotline

Back in the good old days, when the US had nation states as enemies (instead of amorphous trans national ‘franchises’ of enemies), we and the other guys had the good sense to set up a state of the art communications link so that we could keep in touch and avoid those annoying little misunderstandings which could lead to global thermonuclear war.

Like any other ‘internet,’ the hot line wasn’t perfect.  According to this account, “A Danish bulldozer operator once cut the line near Copenhagen. A Finnish farmer once plowed it up. A fire in a Baltimore Maryland manhole took it out of service temporarily.”   But in the end, it has kept the world safe since 1963.  Pretty cool.  (via Boing Boing)

before the internet – the hotline

protect your online info with a watch-Tapir

On guard, protecting your data
On guard, protecting your data

Last week, the big story in social media (and infosec) was the theft and subsequent publication of a whole mess of internal documents from Internet phenomenon Twitter.  While the purloined documents did not contain any earth shattering information, the incident was pretty embarrassing for Twitter and raised some questions about the wisdom of using cloud applications such as Google Docs for corporate applications.  Further information has been released as to how the documents were filched and there are lessons in this for all of us.

Authentication questions are not secure enough to protect passwords. Think about all of the information about you out on the Internet… your Facebook page, your postings to web forums, mentions on school and social organizations’ web sites.  This information can be used to guess correct answers to those questions used to protect your passwords.  My advice?  Make up “special” answers that have no basis in reality – just be consistent about them.  Maybe your first school was the Jupiter Academy of Space Sciences or your first pet was a Tapir.  Using a set of “special” answers gives you another level of password protection for your real passwords.

Using the same password for all sites is a recipe for disaster. I know… we all have a zillion passwords to remember and asking you to have a separate password for each site you visit is a pain.  But think about it… if I get hold of  the password you use for Facebook, can I also access your bank account and your email?  There are some really good tools to help manage a plethora of passwords.  My personal favorite is Keepass, which runs on PCs, Linux boxen, and Macs.  Keepass keeps your passwords (get it?) in an encrypted file which you can carry with you or store “in the cloud” safely since it is encrypted.  (You need a password to open the password file – make sure it is unique!)

Old email accounts can come back to haunt you. One of the tricks used by the attacker was based on the fact that web email providers sometimes recycle accounts which have not been used in a long time.  In this case, the Twitter employee had listed a Hotmail account as their backup email address for Google Mail.  This meant that when the attacker answered the password reset questions correctly, the new password was sent to the hotmail account.  Just one problem… the Twitster had not used the Hotmail account in a really long time, so it expired.  The attacker simply signed up with Hotmail for a new account with the same name and voila… the password was his (or hers).

The overriding lesson here is that the “best” hacks are not the result of amazing technical skill – they are the result of a moderately smart attacker taking advantage of the openings we leave for them.  YOU are in control of your online security – if you are going to get hacked, at least make the SOB work for it!

protect your online info with a watch-Tapir

is your ipod working for the mob??

DANGER!
DANGER!

I take this as a good omen for the starting of my blog… today, Apple Insider reports on a gentleman from St. Louis, MO who filed a 128 page lawsuit against Apple Computer – and with good reason! It seems that the Mafia and Apple conspired to placed devices in his iPod to not only track his location, but also to inject threatening messages into his music. All of this was allegedly in furtherance of a plot dating back to 2000 in which the plaintiff was threatened by the Mob that if he didn’t go to New York and get into fashion modeling for them, he would be killed.

I for one applaud this brave American’s willingness to take on Apple… and the Mafia… and reality. It is about time that we iPod owners can stop having to worry about being forced to become fashion models! Power to the paranoid!

is your ipod working for the mob??