The baddest admin in the whole damn town

And he still doesn’t have time to go rifling through your data:

When you have that level of access, users become paranoid that you’re pilfering through their computer, looking at their “stuff”. My “official” answer was always that, well, it wasn’t their computer — it was the government’s. Even today, every time I log on to my computer, a big banner pops up and reminds me of that fact. It also states that anything I do can be logged or monitored. People have a sense of personal ownership and privacy when it comes to the computer that they use on a daily basis, but it’s not so.

The “unofficial” answer, however, might surprise you. Unofficially, none of us had time to look at people’s data. At my old job, three of us managed a domain for 6,500 users. None of us had the time (nor the incentive) to randomly select someone’s workstation and browse the contents of their hard drive. People would get so bent out of shape over the fact that I had the ability to peek into their My Documents folder or their network home drive and thumb through their documents, but the reality was we were way too busy to be doing that. And when we did have moments of down time, the last thing I wanted to do was look at someone else’s vacation photos or search the network for small pools of mp3s.

My access level at work is “Seated at the Right Hand of God,” but I don’t have time to browse everyone’s machines. I can barely keep my own box updated. Then again, stupidity of a flagrantly blatant, or blatantly flagrant, nature will be noticed. We had one lost soul who one afternoon installed LimeWire on her work box. Now there’s nothing inherently evil about LimeWire, but she was using it as ductwork to load up her iTunes folder, and files of dubious provenance often contain Really Bad Stuff of the sort one does not want on a corporate network. Still, I might not have noticed it except that she had iTunes sharing turned on, which meant that all this stuff materialized one day on my machine. I mentioned this in passing to the powers that be, expecting that a tech would remove the offending files. Instead, the poor girl was subsequently frogmarched to the curb.

If there’s a lesson here, it’s this: you can probably get away with more than you think, but less than you’d like.


  1. sya »

    5 March 2010 · 10:46 am

    At the university, I know people can monitor what you’re downloading, but usually they don’t. Unless the RIAA sends a notice. So I guess college students would have to worry more about the RIAA monitoring them rather than the university.

  2. fillyjonk »

    5 March 2010 · 12:02 pm

    I suppose that lack of monitoring on my campus explains how the “back row” computers in the computer lab got so horribly jacked up with malware and spyware from downloads of crap several years ago. (It is not a good day when you bring a class into the lab to teach them a statistical test, and one of the guys goes, “oh, hey! The ‘A Night in Paris’ (Hilton) video is on the desktop of this computer”)

    At one point I was threatening to put up angled mirrors so the room-monitor could see what was going on on all screens at all times.

  3. Dick Stanley »

    5 March 2010 · 9:46 pm

    At my former employer, from which I retired in 2006, it was always amusing to hear the outraged protests of the nimrods who somehow thought their box was their own property and whatever they wanted to surf or keep was their very own business. Ho, ho.

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