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8/10/2007
05:00 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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The Wall Street Journal's Irresponsible -- And Dangerous -- Attack On Corporate IT

What in heaven's name were the people at The Wall Street Journal thinking when they recently published an article detailing -- and advocating -- how readers can circumvent corporate IT policies to breach network security, visit blocked sites without getting caught, access confidential work documents remotely, and otherwise trash every cybersecurity policy a company has?

What in heaven's name were the people at The Wall Street Journal thinking when they recently published an article detailing -- and advocating -- how readers can circumvent corporate IT policies to breach network security, visit blocked sites without getting caught, access confidential work documents remotely, and otherwise trash every cybersecurity policy a company has?While some might try to say the article -- misleadingly called "Ten Things Your IT Department Won't Tell You" -- was all in good fun and was intended purely to discuss hypothetical situations, the words within the article itself tell a very different story (and you'll find more detail in a related column I've posted here). And this isn't a matter of freedom of the press: Of course, the Journal has every right to publish such material; that's not the point. The real issue is, how exactly does the publication of these scams serve the interest of the business and IT community the Journal represents? For example:

  • "Specifically, we asked [hackers] to find the top 10 secrets our IT departments don't want us to know. How to surf to blocked sites without leaving any traces, for instance, or carry on instant-message chats without having to download software."
  • From the section on "How To Send Giant Files": "The Risk: Because these services send your files over the Web, they're outside of your company's control. That makes it easier for a wily hacker to intercept files during their travels."
  • From the section "How To Search For Your Work Documents From Home": "Getting hold of your company's internal documents could give others insight into your plans, and losing certain information could have legal repercussions. In particular, myriad state laws regulate how a company has to react when it loses private information about customers or employees; most require notifying those people about the breach in writing. Sending these notifications can be costly for your company -- not to mention damaging to its reputation."
  • While the article contains many more examples of such naive stupidity, this last one really struck me -- the reporter just babbles through the "repercussions" of enabling a privacy breach as if they amount to nothing more than a bit of busywork to be attended to, rather than a gravely serious violation of customer/employee trust, ethics, highest-level corporate policy, and possibly even laws. Again I will ask: What in the world were the WSJ people thinking when they published this childish and irresponsible piffle? Perhaps the Journal's intent was merely to tweak corporate IT departments. I can't offer any insight, because reporter Vauhini Vara did not respond to my e-mail inquiry. But if that was the intent, they missed the mark badly, and instead perpetuated the small-minded cliche that corporate IT is run by clueless knuckleheads who create pointless policies and are so out of touch with reality that they need to be defied and deceived at every possible opportunity. And in taking this irresponsible -- and dangerous -- stand, The Wall Street Journal has done a deep disservice to all of its readers and particularly to the IT community.

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