I previously wrote a post in response to an article that equated Snowden’s CEH certification to James Bond’s “license to kill.” Well, it looks like some technically-challenged media types are at it again. They’ve called Snowden “brilliant” for his ability to “impersonate” users on various systems in order to obtain certain documents and I felt a need to set the record straight.
This is a standard function of a syadmin. The command used is called sudo on *nix variants and it’s how you troubleshoot a user’s access. You can do it on Windows too, but since my MCSE is for Windows NT 4.x, I can’t remember what the exact command is. I’m still trying to block that period out of my mind, sort of the way everyone’s trying to forget about the fact that ALF, a sitcom about a puppet from outer space, managed to stay on network TV for four years. I really wish people could figure out what a sysadmin really does and stop assuming it’s some sort of voodoo magic. Making Snowden into a super sleuth is simply an attempt by the NSA to muddy the truth: that they didn’t have proper separation of duties, auditing or alerting in place. You might say, “So what? This doesn’t make them any worse than most other organizations out there.” And I would say, “Yes, but the NSA has about a bazillion dollars in a Black Budget to get it right.”
This calls for an awesome XKCD comic: