Debate IT: Could the San Fran network lock-out happen to you?

Does one person hold all the keys to your network?

In mid-June a network administrator with San Francisco's Department of Telecommunication Information Services allegedly locked the city out of the multi-million dollar Fibre WAN used to connect computers in buildings throughout the city, carrying about 60 percent of the networking traffic for the city government.

As administrators struggled to regain control of the city's network, Terry Childs, 43, pleaded not guilty to charges of computer tampering before a San Francisco Superior Court.

(See Computerworld's in-depth features - Why San Francisco's network admin went rogue and Sorting out the facts in the Terry Childs case)

With few details publicly released on exactly how Childs managed to lock the city out of its own network, many are suggesting that the lockout and the city's response to it point to a failure to implement and manage fundamental security controls.

Users and analysts interviewed last week said the city could have avoided the recent turmoil by implementing stronger configuration management techniques along with processes that could quickly detect when someone was attempting to bypass network controls.

As the media circus surrounding the Childs case grew, more and more stories cropped up about networks where one person holds all the "keys to the kingdom" and the subsequent security threat this represents.

What happened in San Francisco can happen in any Australian IT department. So, could the same thing happen to your organisation?

Does one person hold all the keys to your corporate network?

What can enterprise networks do to avoid a repeat of the San Francisco lockout?

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