Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Government Issues

1989, a small college where I worked as a system admin. The campus police chief briefed the mid-level managers and department chairs at a college-wide security meeting that they would make sure not to leave doors open, so that computer virus would not infect computers. By computer virus, he was referring to the ping-pong virus on IBM PC. The campus chief made himself a laughing stock ever since as this became a most popular way to start computer literacy session in freshmen orientations.

Fast forward to December 2011 (22 years later for math challenged people, i.e. chemists and biologists), the US Economic Development Administration (EDA) quarantined and then hammered $2.7 million worth of electronic devices including computer, monitors, keyboards, mice, printers and digital cameras. It started when the DoHS notified them there were PCs found running malware in a routine scanning (which later turned out to be false positives). An external contractor took no time, after pocking $823,000, to find the computers were actually malware free. In an ordinary bureaucratic workplace, the story would have ended there, but of course that wouldn't be the case for the top federal agency in charge of economic policies of the world's largest economy.

The CIO of the EDA, Mr. Chuck Benjamin according to Leader 411, being the smartest kid on the street, asked the contractor to make a guarantee that these computers would be forever 'impregnable' against malware. Baffled by the insurmountable responsibility, the contractor gave Mr. Benjamin the truthful answer, that they couldn't. Scared by what he heard and out of utmost loyalty to his job duty to keep US federal government running, Mr. Benjamin ordered all electronic devices in the central office of the US EDA destroyed, which would include all computers, keyboard, mouse, monitors, printers, digital cameras and of course televisions. The operation was suspended on August 1, 2012, only because they ran out of money to hire people to literally smash these secret government devices by hammers.

The EDA made a $26 million budget request in September 2012 to replace computers, digital cameras and TVs it hammered in the clean-up operation. Ars Technica and Fierce Government IT ran very interesting reports on the incidents. As of this time, the CIO of EDA is Mr. Ben, who else?

Mr. Big Ben certainly is not alone in the cirques of CIOs who cannot pass computer 101 in community colleges. The real problem is that they have never been registered to computer 101. Unlike how it is perceived by our leaders, CIO is a technical job which requires basic literacy of computer and information. Perhaps they should be sent to Vietnam and see whether they can survive a 2nd grade computer class there.

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