Networking

Beware: The seven most dangerous types of network administrators

Jeff Dray is back from his latest journey into the IT jungles, and he's come back with yet another classification list. This time he's identified the seven most dangerous types of network administrators. Are you among the most notorious of this species?

Jeff Dray is back from his latest journey into the IT jungles and he's come back with yet another classification list. This time he's identified the seven most dangerous types of network administrators. Are you among the most notorious of this species?

Beware: The seven most dangerous types of network administrators

As with any of the working disciplines that make up the IT industry, there are a minority of network administrators who can make it difficult to get the work done.

Most netops are good at their jobs and keep things humming along nicely in what can be a highly challenging and technically difficult role. However, on occasion one of them will turn rogue and make life difficult. For that reason, I'm presenting my latest classification list. This time, we'll be looking at the seven most dangerous types of network administrator. These are caricatures of some traits I have observed in colleagues over several years in the business.


Don't miss Dray's other classification lists

As Jeff Dray roams the wilds of the IT industry, he's managed to catalog and classify other rare but dangerous species. Don't miss the 10 most dangerous species of IT manager and the 10 most dangerous species of help desk callers.


1. Mr. Safety: NetopsiaSecuritatis

The whole purpose of Mr. Safety's existence is to prevent anything bad happening to his network, with the emphasis on his. The cables may have been run by a contractor, the racks, patch panels, routers, and UPSs installed by the manufacturers, but the whole thing belongs to him right down to the last dusty mouse ball rolling around in his desk drawer (just in case he ever needs to fit it as a replacement).

His method for avoiding conflict is to lock the system down so tightly that nothing or no one can alter anything. Sometimes this means that the only things a user can do are log in and change his or her password, which can be set to expire every time it is used. Running executables or editing files is obviously far too risky an operation to be left to the user so they are treated to the options of viewing a login screen and a desktop.

Mr. Safety hasn't had a virus attack in seven years and he isn't about to allow one now. Not only are the USB sockets in the back of all his workstations disabled in BIOS and the BIOS password-protected, but also the holes are filled with glue to prevent anyone using a USB memory stick to transfer the slightest amount of data. The e-mail server will not allow any attachments, the workstation will not boot if the network cable is removed, and the system box is welded to the desk to prevent unauthorized removal. If any attempt is made to remove the cover of the machine, a small explosive device will render the PC (and probably the operator) unusable.

2. The "out-of-my-depth" administrator: NetopsiaSubmersio

This administrator has developed her skills as the company has grown. So ten years ago, when the company bought a PC to assist with the paperwork, she was the slowest to leave the room and thus took on the unofficial role of "computer person." The company grew from five employees to the 80 they have today and the "network" grew in spurts to keep up. There are now fifteen or twenty workstations cobbled to a makeshift server, which acts also as the e-mail gateway, file server, and Internet proxy server. There is no documentation. All of the quirks and foibles are in the administrator's head and things just about jog along, provided that nothing untoward happens.

The company can't quite make the leap to employing a full-time IT person, but is abusing Ms. "out of my depth" as she also has a full-time job on the design team. Her only hope is that further expansion will allow the quantum leap to be made and allow her to release the system reins once and for all.

On the whole, things work fairly well if you don't mind the frequent power failures, lock ups, and the inevitable virus attacks. Everybody has the same password and everybody has rights to all folders on the network, but it doesn't matter too much as everybody in the company is very nice and absolutely trustworthy.

3. The remote deployment king: NetopsiaAbsistus

This netop has recently mastered the art of remote deployment of applications and upgrades, whether you want them or not. Shutting your workstation down at the end of the day is no defense against him. He has configured all the stations on the network to Wake-On-LAN (WOL). You need to remove the network cable from the back of the machine as well. You can leave work at 5:00 p.m. with a fully-functioning computer on your desk and return the next morning to find a totally different desktop facing you—one where it is impossible to find anything you were using the day before!

4. Jobsworth: NetopsiaOfficiatis

This is an officious character, often encountered in British civil service locations, who answers every request for something out of the ordinary with a cry of "That would be more than my job's worth."

Just try taking a USB memory stick into the office on her shift and see what happens! She even starts disciplinary procedures against herself if she inadvertently takes one to work in her lunch bag. One day she will drive herself to a breakdown when she discovers that some of the e-mails sent from one desk to another may not be entirely work-related.

I have a company laptop, provided for my use whilst out in the field. As the headquarters building is over 150 miles away, it is unlikely that I will ever have it plugged into the network, yet our netop—a fine specimen of N. Officiatis—will only allow me to have a standard company desktop image, containing a range of applications that are of no use to me whatsoever. The ability to install my own route finder software, however, would be a great boon, enabling me to find places that are outside of my immediate area.

5. Test bed man: NetopsiaExperiortus

This adventurous person tries out new patches and upgrades all the time. Most sensible administrators will have a small test network on which they try out solutions before deploying them to the working system. Mr. Test Bed runs them on the live system, much to the consternation and annoyance of the users. Similar in effect to the Remote deployment administrator, differing only in that N Absistus tries to make sure that the product or upgrade he is rolling out does work and doesn't affect anything else on the network.

6. My personal property: NetopsiaDictatoris

As the name suggests, the network is this character's personal property, and she will become agitated whenever somebody seeks to do anything that will affect the smooth running of the network. A good thing, you might think, but N Dictatoris, like all the others, takes it too far. She will keep extensive logs that show that network performance is 100 percent. This is achieved by ensuring that hardly any of the resources of the network are allocated for general use.

7. The gamesmaster: NetopsiaAliatorium

This rarest and probably most affable type of dangerous network administrator used to be found in great numbers in the academic world. The network had sufficient spare capacity to allow a few students at a time to work on their dissertations or research but its main function was to provide a gaming platform for the team that ran the IT facilities for the college.

Most of the network resources were only available to people with supervisor logins who would meet regularly to blow each other out of existence in a huge and highly imaginative variety of ways. Nowadays, with cheap small routers and switches available to almost anyone, this kind of activity continues in the homes of such people and, after a hard day's work in the communications room, nothing relaxes a gamesmaster more than a few hours more in cyberworld.


Have you observed a dangerous netops species in the wild?

Would you like to add a few categories to the list yourself? Post a comment to the discussion below or write to us about your experiences with the seven most dangerous species of network administrators.


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