IT Hostage Taking

July 23, 2008

Larry Seltzer at eweek published an article on the current San Francisco case where a Network Admin was the only individual to have business critical knowledge and passwords for key IT infrastructure. Allegedly, this now jailed employee changed all the passwords and is refusing to divulge them.

As Mr Seltzer states;

If critical information exists only in the brain of one person, that person is a disaster waiting to happen.

This situation is not just an IT issue, in the SMB space this crosses many boundaries as we do more work with less people than large organizations, we all wear many hats. In this tongue-in-cheek titled post Can your Small / Medium Business pass the Beer Truck Test? I wrote;

Who else knows where that payroll or financial information is? Who else has any idea on your accounting system, or any other technology resources that you have?

As a small / medium business manager or general manager it is absolutely critical that your IT (either outsourced or internal) is part of your agenda. Your infrastructure must become systems dependent – not people dependent.

This is a case where Managers abdicated their IT responsibility, they did not delegate it. In the SMB space we have less redundancy in our staffing of various critical functions.

Without getting into possible deliberate misconduct as in the above case – how many scenarios can you think of that would have more of an impact on a small / medium business with one person gone?

Like your controller who suddenly has a death in the family – 3 days before payroll?

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