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[TRENCHES] Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - Change Of Heart

GethGeth LegionPerseus VeilRegistered User, Moderator, Penny Arcade Staff, Vanilla Staff vanilla
edited August 2014 in The Penny Arcade Hub
Change Of Heart


Change Of Heart
http://trenchescomic.com/comic/post/change-of-heart

What’s your security clearance?

Anonymous

In the mid-90s I was working my first real computer job, tech support for a company that made software for producing GUIs, primarily for UNIX and VMS (look it up, kids) systems.  Our largest customers were various branches of the US Government, ranging from the utterly innocuous (census, bureau of land management, etc) to the CIA, NSA and other less-well known branches.  (Fun facts: When asked whom they work for, CIA employees just say “The Federal Government”, whereas NSA employees say “the Department of Defense”, and When you call someone at the NSA, they answer the phone by just saying the last 4 digits of their phone number you just called).

Anyway, something we were constantly running into was the need to see the code that people were having trouble with, but often being told that they were unable to share the code with us unless we had security clearance (We did not.)  Normally this just meant a quick and easy way to close a ticket—Can’t show us the code? Well, then, we really can’t help you, sir.  Case closed.

However, one day my colleague (I’ll just call him Mike) had a call from someone at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, which was one of other big customers.  He was having a problem with the code being output by the GUI-builder, and was under some huge deadline.  He was absolutely desperate, and so the typical exchange of Security Clearance? No? Can’t help you! was broken by the caller saying “ok, look, fine, I’m going to send you the code, but you CANNOT tell anyone, and you need to delete it immediately after finishing with it.  Or ELSE.”

Fair enough. Mike gets the guy to send the code in, he opens it and it’s some sort of GUI to be used for tracking submarines/ships/missiles/torpedoes, etc.  Mike finds the problem with the code, fixes it, and sends it back to the dude at the NUWC. However, Mike then decides that this is too interesting to just delete, and instead goes about writing a back-end to turn it into a war-game, which the rest of us in Tech Support (not-knowing it’s origin) start playing obsessively on the server in-between calls for a couple of weeks, before finally one of the bosses thinks to inquire as to where Mike got the game.  He tells them he wrote it, and then tells them the story of where he got the front-end.  Everyone in the room falls silent as the boss’s face goes first pale, pale white, and then beet red.  Everyone in Tech Support except for Mike got sent home for the afternoon, and when we came back the next day, the game was gone from the server, and Mike was gone from his cube.


Geth on
Andy JoeRMS OceanicCambiata

Posts

  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    edited August 2014
    I'm going to make a value judgement and say Mike is a dumbass.

    Never trust a Mike. Michaels are much better.

    MichaelLC on
    nyzerNocrenPolaritieRMS OceanicGreen
  • SmrtnikSmrtnik job boli zub Registered User regular
    He must be Mr Bolton's biggest fan.

    steam_sig.png
  • Gamer8585Gamer8585 Registered User regular
    For once I can't blame the company for just being horrible about firing someone. That is such a major breach of National Security it could have gotten the whole company thrown in prison. And not even Federal PMITA prison, secret military out of the country prison.

    On the other hand that did sound like a pretty sweet game. It would probably have been better for "Mike" to copy the code somewhere he could get it at home, tweak the UI elements so they're still functional, but look different enough that no one would suspect about the code, make his back end, sell the whole experience on steam for $5-10, and tell fucking NO ONE this story.

    zepherinCambiata
  • nyzernyzer Registered User regular
    edited August 2014
    Gamer8585 wrote: »
    sell the whole experience on steam for $5-10

    Might be a bit difficult, as it went down in the mid-90s.
    MichaelLC wrote: »
    I'm going to make a value judgement and say Mike is a dumbass.

    I can't seem to figure out how to repeatedly agree with your post.
    For once I can't blame the company for just being horrible about firing someone

    Who said he was fired? Mike stole - literally stole - classified military software, repurposed it for his own use, and distributed it freely within his own community. The military probably still has a kill-on-sight order for the poor bastard. That, or the author forgot to mention that the carpets had also been replaced the next day...

    nyzer on
  • ShowsniShowsni Registered User regular
    Sure, Mike was pretty reckless. But he had, what, an over the 'phone verbal agreement not to share the secrets? The real ball dropper here is the idiot who sent him the code. This guy has presumably passed all the vetting procedures, signed all the secrecy agreements, and over one moment of desperation with his code he throws it all out the window. Mike might have got fired from his tech support job; but the guy who gave him the code would be looking at a court case for sure.

    This story sounds like a pretty secent premise for a film, though...

    SmrtnikRMS OceanicfortyCambiata
  • fearsomepiratefearsomepirate I ate a pickle once. Registered User regular
    edited August 2014
    But he had, what, an over the 'phone verbal agreement not to share the secrets?
    Yes, he had the trust of a client and his employer. You seem to be under the impression that trust is worthless. Maybe it is when you're screwing someone in a merger, but when it comes to regular dealings with clients, employees, and bosses, it sure as heck isn't.
    The real ball dropper here is the idiot who sent him the code.
    This actually happens all the time, because sometimes someone in the DOD desperately needs something done, and no one with the right clearances can do it. Trusting your contractor to behave in a professional, discreet manner when bureaucracy and problem-solving are at loggerheads is not irrational at all. After all, if your contractor decides to suddenly act like middle-schoolers, they're never going to get a contract with your agency again, are they?

    "Mike" apparently thought that professionalism is optional, which is why he lost his job.

    fearsomepirate on
    Nobody makes me bleed my own blood...nobody.
    PSN ID: fearsomepirate
    zepherinNocren
  • zepherinzepherin Russian warship, go fuck yourself Registered User regular
    Actually I saw a car with a license plate that said NSA as their vanity plate. Might as well have a vanity plate that says worth kidnapping.

  • streeverstreever Registered User regular
    Some CIA members say 'department of defense' as their employer too, because, they usually have a DOD pass on their car. (At least, the CIA guy who had an office in the same building as me did)

  • Gamer8585Gamer8585 Registered User regular
    nyzer wrote: »
    Gamer8585 wrote: »
    sell the whole experience on steam for $5-10

    Might be a bit difficult, as it went down in the mid-90s.

    Life finds a way!

    ...but yeah, I forgot the timeframe when I was posting...ooops.

    nyzer wrote: »
    Gamer8585 wrote: »
    For once I can't blame the company for just being horrible about firing someone

    Who said he was fired? Mike stole - literally stole - classified military software, repurposed it for his own use, and distributed it freely within his own community. The military probably still has a kill-on-sight order for the poor bastard. That, or the author forgot to mention that the carpets had also been replaced the next day...

    The whole: Manager Turning Beat Red, then having to stay behind while everyone else left, and then being gone from his cube the next day strongly implies that he was terminated. And he didn't steal the code either literally or figuratively. He was given the code by his client for work and instructed to delete it when he was done. He didn't follow the instructions and misused the code, and that's really bad and super illegal, but he didn't steal it. And I highly doubt that the military has him on a kill list, it seems that the company did everything they could to hush-up the incident so the military wouldn't find out.

    streever
  • nyzernyzer Registered User regular
    I wasn't being serious. ¬_¬

    streever
  • tdvtdv Registered User new member
    nyzer wrote: »

    Who said he was fired? Mike stole - literally stole - classified military software, repurposed it for his own use, and distributed it freely within his own community. The military probably still has a kill-on-sight order for the poor bastard. That, or the author forgot to mention that the carpets had also been replaced the next day...

    Last I heard, Mike landed on his feet, but as a developer. Probably for the best, since the other good Mike story involved him saying to a customer "Oh, I know what your problem is, sir! Can you hold, please?" *places customer on hold* Shouts: "YOUR PROBLEM IS THAT YOU'RE A FUCKING MORON!" *takes customer off hold* "Oh, sorry, sir. Where was I?"... Suffice it to say that Mike didn't really have the proper mentality for a customer-facing job.

    streever
  • fortyforty Registered User regular
    But he had, what, an over the 'phone verbal agreement not to share the secrets?
    Yes, he had the trust of a client and his employer. You seem to be under the impression that trust is worthless. Maybe it is when you're screwing someone in a merger, but when it comes to regular dealings with clients, employees, and bosses, it sure as heck isn't.
    The real ball dropper here is the idiot who sent him the code.
    This actually happens all the time, because sometimes someone in the DOD desperately needs something done, and no one with the right clearances can do it. Trusting your contractor to behave in a professional, discreet manner when bureaucracy and problem-solving are at loggerheads is not irrational at all. After all, if your contractor decides to suddenly act like middle-schoolers, they're never going to get a contract with your agency again, are they?
    Actually, knowingly passing classified material to an uncleared individual/network is most likely going to get your clearance revoked, get you fired, and possibly even get you fined/imprisoned. You don't get to say "but he agreed to delete it right away." That's not how classified data spill incidents work.

    Smrtnik
  • fearsomepiratefearsomepirate I ate a pickle once. Registered User regular
    edited August 2014
    forty wrote: »
    But he had, what, an over the 'phone verbal agreement not to share the secrets?
    Yes, he had the trust of a client and his employer. You seem to be under the impression that trust is worthless. Maybe it is when you're screwing someone in a merger, but when it comes to regular dealings with clients, employees, and bosses, it sure as heck isn't.
    The real ball dropper here is the idiot who sent him the code.
    This actually happens all the time, because sometimes someone in the DOD desperately needs something done, and no one with the right clearances can do it. Trusting your contractor to behave in a professional, discreet manner when bureaucracy and problem-solving are at loggerheads is not irrational at all. After all, if your contractor decides to suddenly act like middle-schoolers, they're never going to get a contract with your agency again, are they?
    Actually, knowingly passing classified material to an uncleared individual/network is most likely going to get your clearance revoked, get you fired, and possibly even get you fined/imprisoned. You don't get to say "but he agreed to delete it right away." That's not how classified data spill incidents work.
    "Actually" nothing, as that doesn't contradict anything I just said. You're absolutely right. If you give restricted data to a contractor, and they do something as asinine as release it on Steam, and the government figures out it was you that leaked it, you indeed will be losing your clearance and possibly going to jail. But the contractor's also going to lose his contract, and he might be going to jail, too, since soliciting classified information is also a federal crime.

    That's why the contractor in this story deleted all the code and fired the employee instead of basing a new video game on the code with a special thanks to the federal employee mentioned by name.

    fearsomepirate on
    Nobody makes me bleed my own blood...nobody.
    PSN ID: fearsomepirate
  • Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    I mean the guy who passed him the code certainly was also at fault

    but the question isn't really 'can mike avoid possible criminal charges for disclosing state secrets,' it's 'did mike potentially jeopardize a major contract because he's a dumbass?'

    NREqxl5.jpg
    it was the smallest on the list but
    Pluto was a planet and I'll never forget
  • NeuroskepticNeuroskeptic Registered User regular
    edited August 2014
    It's quite obvious that they were both at fault. They had both entered in solemn agreements (with the NUWC/the guy from the NUWC respectively) not to do the exact thing they each did.

    Neuroskeptic on
  • fortyforty Registered User regular
    forty wrote: »
    But he had, what, an over the 'phone verbal agreement not to share the secrets?
    Yes, he had the trust of a client and his employer. You seem to be under the impression that trust is worthless. Maybe it is when you're screwing someone in a merger, but when it comes to regular dealings with clients, employees, and bosses, it sure as heck isn't.
    The real ball dropper here is the idiot who sent him the code.
    This actually happens all the time, because sometimes someone in the DOD desperately needs something done, and no one with the right clearances can do it. Trusting your contractor to behave in a professional, discreet manner when bureaucracy and problem-solving are at loggerheads is not irrational at all. After all, if your contractor decides to suddenly act like middle-schoolers, they're never going to get a contract with your agency again, are they?
    Actually, knowingly passing classified material to an uncleared individual/network is most likely going to get your clearance revoked, get you fired, and possibly even get you fined/imprisoned. You don't get to say "but he agreed to delete it right away." That's not how classified data spill incidents work.
    "Actually" nothing, as that doesn't contradict anything I just said. You're absolutely right. If you give restricted data to a contractor, and they do something as asinine as release it on Steam, and the government figures out it was you that leaked it, you indeed will be losing your clearance and possibly going to jail. But the contractor's also going to lose his contract, and he might be going to jail, too, since soliciting classified information is also a federal crime.

    That's why the contractor in this story deleted all the code and fired the employee instead of basing a new video game on the code with a special thanks to the federal employee mentioned by name.
    It was in response to this:
    This actually happens all the time, because sometimes someone in the DOD desperately needs something done, and no one with the right clearances can do it. Trusting your contractor to behave in a professional, discreet manner when bureaucracy and problem-solving are at loggerheads is not irrational at all.
    It doesn't happen all the time. DoD employees and contractors have it drilled into them never to do this sort of thing. If you "need something done," you figure out a way to do things that don't violate the agreements you've signed to gain access to said classified networks. Violating those agreements gets you fucked up. You don't get to make the decision to "trust" uncleared individuals. That's in the government's hands.

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