NY Times: N.S.A. Leak Puts Focus on sysadmins

An arti­cle in yesterday’s New York Times exam­ines the threat that “rogue” sysad­mins pose to gov­ern­ments and corporations.

(But what if all sysad­mins are rogue sysad­mins, deep down? What if that’s how they got to be sysad­mins in the first place? Just a thought.)

A few notable quotes from the Times article:

Edward J. Snow­den, the for­mer National Secu­rity Agency con­trac­tor who leaked details about Amer­i­can sur­veil­lance, per­son­i­fies a debate at the heart of tech­nol­ogy sys­tems in gov­ern­ment and indus­try: can the I.T. staff be trusted?

“The scari­est threat is the sys­tems admin­is­tra­tor,” said Eric Chiu, pres­i­dent of Hytrust, a com­puter secu­rity com­pany. “The sys­tem admin­is­tra­tor has god­like access to sys­tems they manage.”

“This is a dirty lit­tle secret that’s being revealed,” said Robert Big­man, a for­mer chief infor­ma­tion secu­rity offi­cer at the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency. “When you log on with a root account, it doesn’t know if you’re staff employee or a con­tract employee. It just knows you’re root. You’re known as a supe­ruser. You have all privileges.“

Edward Snowden, whistleblower

Edward Snowden’s deci­sion to throw him­self into the machine for our col­lec­tive ben­e­fit is an incred­i­bly impor­tant story, not least because the tim­ing sig­nals sol­i­dar­ity with Bradley Man­ning, who is now in the first week of his trial after an aston­ish­ing (and ille­gal) three-year delay.

Sol­i­dar­ity gen­er­ates heat, and that can mean expo­nen­tial growth.

When it all starts to fall apart, it can hap­pen very fast.

Nobody knows where the elbow in the hockey stick really is. You can hit it by surprise.

Whistle­blow­ers are the canaries in the coal mines. Our gov­ern­ment wants them dead. What do you sup­pose that means?

And let’s not for­get the brave jour­nal­ists Glenn Green­wald and Laura Poitras, equal heroes in this case.