Security

Would you support management-endorsed piracy?

When a support tech discovers pirated software on company machines, she reports it to her boss, believing that it is the result of a simple oversight. Unfortunately, she is told to stop worrying and forget about it. What should she do? What would you do?


Our "What would you do?" column is a forum for sharing your knowledge and experience in dealing with the softer side of computer support. Every two weeks, I will present a scenario that requires more than a technical solution. Each situation will be an accurate description of an actual event, with the names and other identifying factors changed to protect the innocent—and sometimes not so innocent.

I will first present the outcome and discussion of a scenario from a previous week. Then, we'll jump right in to the next problematic situation. So without further ado, here are your responses to our column "How would you handle an IT saboteur?"

Members offer advice to end IT sabotage
Most members were in agreement that Raymond, the new IT manager, should perform a thorough network audit, document the results, and present a detailed report to the CEO, Raymond’s supervisor, and other members of management. Several members also suggested that Raymond include an assessment of how much the hacking cost the company in terms of lost time.

But how should Raymond handle the personal relationship between the saboteur, Lauren, and the CEO? Many members felt that this should simply be ignored, and Raymond should inform the CEO of Lauren’s actions despite their personal relationship.

“It wouldn't matter if you have a personal relationship with the former IT director," Gary1218 wrote. "Report it and walk away from it. Then, review your policies to see if they need to be tightened up.” But other members, who had been in similar situations, questioned the feasibility of this approach. They cited the sad reality that this might be a case in which a personal relationship prevents resolution. So what did Raymond actually do?

Beaten at her own game
After discovering the veiled account, Raymond deleted it, knowing that it would not be long before he heard from Lauren. Sure enough, he was in his office one day when Lauren marched in and demanded that her administrative account be reinstated. As she closed the door behind her, Raymond discretely paged the CEO’s office on silent return using the interoffice paging feature of the phone system.

Lauren raged; calling Raymond every name in the book, declaring that she would have his job in an instant because she had the CEO wrapped around her little finger. She then proceeded to tell Raymond that she knew of other ways to get into the system, and if he thought the first round was bad, wait until mission-critical data started to disappear.

This went on for about five minutes before Raymond smiled and said, "I wonder what the CEO has to say about all of this?"

"She isn't ever going to know," Lauren shot back. "Even if she did, she is too stupid to know anything but what I tell her."

At this point, Raymond turned off the silent return and said, "Let’s ask her, shall we?”

Raymond hasn’t had a single problem since then. And what happened to Lauren? Well, if you call Raymond’s company today, you can ask her yourself, because she will be answering the phone as the company's new receptionist.

How would you handle management-endorsed piracy?
Now let's move on to this week’s scenario. Once you've looked it over, I hope you'll take a moment to comment.

Update: So what really happened?
To learn the outcome of the scenario outlined below and get a recap of the comments and suggestions given by TechRepublic members, click here.

While researching an end-user software problem, Julia, a support tech, called the application's tech support center. After relaying the software's serial number to the telephone tech, Julia was told that the software in question was in fact an illegal copy and no support could be provided. Julia was horrified and greatly embarrassed. She told the telephone tech that she was sure this was merely an oversight and promised to rectify the situation immediately.

Julia set about discovering the history of the problem application, which had been installed before she joined the company. She was able to obtain ownership documentation for an earlier version but could not find any for the current version. Julia immediately reported this issue to her boss, Harold. She was certain that he would share her anxiety and approve the appropriate purchases.

Guess again. In amazement, Julia listened while Harold simply told her to stop worrying and forget about it. He said there was no money in the budget to purchase legitimate software.

What would you do?
After reading this scenario, if you have ideas about how a satisfactory resolution might be achieved, send them to us. Don’t hold back, and don't be afraid to be creative. And if you've ever encountered a similar situation, we're particularly interested in hearing the steps you took to achieve a resolution.

You can submit your ideas either by sending us e-mail or by posting a discussion item at the end of the column. A week after the publication of a scenario, we'll pull together the most interesting solutions and common themes from the discussion. We will later present them with the situation's actual outcome in a follow-up article. You may continue to add discussion items after the week has elapsed, but to be eligible for inclusion in the follow-up article, your suggestions must be received within a week of the scenario's publication.

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