GSX Blog

The Real Lesson of the NSA PRISM Scandal (and why the NYT should not always be trusted)

Posted by Antoine Leboyer on Thu, Jul 18, 2013
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The New York Times recently published an article on people they rarely talk about: System Administrators.

This article explained to readers who System Administrators are. Of course this is a topic you and I need no explanation on, but many of the NYT readers do.

A majority of the public first became interested in the topic when Edward Snowden exposed classified surveillance information to The Guardian. The first article was published this past spring and new articles are still coming out today.

The New York Times is a highly respectable news resource, but I do have to say that I was shocked to read that the article posed the question: “Can the IT staff be trusted?” 

In the past few years, management has brutally increased admin's workloads across the industry and, in many cases, completely outsourced their operations. Running a company's IT operations is a complex and difficult task requiring highly skilled System Administrators, who are still fairly rare.

During my experience of over 15 years in this industry, I have witnessed CIO's cut themselves out from the world of System Admins to the extent that a significant number of them would have difficulty understanding and dealing with constraints and challenges that their Admins face on a regular basis.

Before the Snowden story, System Administrators were seen as costly investments and now they are portrayed as liabilities.

If you want to have sound IT operations and a reliable IT staff, the rules are simple:

  1. Invest in your operations teams. Ensure that they are trained, supported and have the right tools and equipment.
  2. Do not cut yourself off from their problems even though you may feel that their work is unglamorous and beyond you. If you are a CIO reading this, ask yourself: When was the last time I conducted real operational reviews with them?
  3. Treat people with respect, give them responsibilities, ask them to be accountable and let them know when they do a good job.

And I forgot do not spy or run anything illegal or immoral on your servers. Maybe, I should have started by that.

Tags: NSA, Prism, Snowden, trusting Administrators