More Snowden Media Douchebaggery

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:

Bow before me, I am Sysadmin. I have root and my uptime is great.

Mrs. Y
Mrs. Y is a recovering Unix engineer working in network security. Also the host of Healthy Paranoia and official nerd hunter. She likes long walks in hubsites, traveling to security conferences and spending time in the Bat Cave. Sincerely believes that every problem can be solved with a "for" loop. When not blogging or podcasting, can be found using up her 15 minutes in the Twittersphere or Google+ as @MrsYisWhy.
Mrs. Y
Mrs. Y
  • http://about.me/weadon Ed Weadon

    Right-click “run as administrator” – there is a ‘runas’ CLI command but really so few understand what the CLI is or can do. Sad when you think about it…

    But seriously.. There has been a lot of stuff coming out of this in the media that sadly make me laugh if only because I’ve sat on the sysadmin side (as have you) and know all to well how easy a lot of this is. Nevermind the fact that some of the data it sounds like came out of a badly admin’ed sharepoint system. You know they say…. SHarepoInT Happens. :)

  • http://ignore-your.tv/ James Cape

    Yes, most of what passes for tech brilliance in media is simply “not being an idiot”. IMO, this is simply the result of white collars doggedly enforcing their ignorance of computers, just as they do with their cars, air conditioners, garbage disposals, or any number of other things which the hoi polloi are supposed to fix for them.

    On the other hand, we don’t actually know what Snowden did besides use “sudo -u” for three months inside the agency which invented SELinux without raising any alarms. Why no alarms were raised is the interesting question: was it because Snowden is Ethan Hunt, or was it because next to the 3ft thick door protected by facial recognition scanner was a screen door on broken hinges?