Sunday, August 10, 2014

There is No Oversight Without Root

On UNIX and Linux machines, which are the heavy hitters in the world of computer technology, the "administrator" account who can do anything is called "root."

I once had "root" account privileges on over 2000 machines, at Morgan Stanley, namely, all the machines involved in running equities trading, options trading, and market making. I wasn't so foolish to think that I could get away with criminal activity with my power. I assumed that lots of logging of any activities I performed as root occurred, and I'd need to hide all of it to do anything nefarious.

In fact, I behaved in the opposite manner, giving my all to keep Morgan Stanley operating during the worst strains on our system (one Chinese market swing of 9% in one day, the Amaranth hedge fund collapse, and the 3+ weeks when the markets went crazy, starting July, 2007, because of the sub-prime mortgage and other market bubble problems). I like to say I kept together the capitalist system, since I was the lead of the front lines of "monitoring" our systems for problems, a job I was allowed to handle as I saw fit. If we had failed, there is simply no way Goldman Sachs could have picked up the extra business we weren't handling, and the markets would have been frozen. Also, because of that monitoring, I got the best compliment I have ever received from a work activity. A peer later said "Monitoring went to shit after you left."

Guess who doesn't have root/administrator access on Defense Department computers? The President of the United States. When he reads reports from DoD, it's always whatever, and just, what they want to give him. It's an abomination, and perfectly suited to the current corrupt culture of military contracting that is just a part of the huge problem of Federal contracting.

The President should have/needs root access.

I want to be in Congress, too, by the way.

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