NSA closes security loophole. Employees must now use pigeon post instead of email

David Sanger, the NSA’s representative at the New York Times, recently reported that in order to prevent the emergence of another Snowden, the agency is imposing a “two-man rule” on system administrators, or what one might call a peer-policing policy so that these guys don’t do anything naughty when left to their own devices. A logical implication of that policy would be that this duplication of roles would mean that the agency would need to hire more system administrators.

Reuters now reports:

The National Security Agency, hit by disclosures of classified data by former contractor Edward Snowden, said Thursday it intends to eliminate about 90 percent of its system administrators to reduce the number of people with access to secret information.

Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA, the U.S. spy agency charged with monitoring foreign electronic communications, told a cybersecurity conference in New York City that automating much of the work would improve security.

Automated? Seriously? If what system administrators do can be automated, why are there system administrators? Or are they like manual typesetters resisting the implementation of electronic typesetting? Or has the NSA always employed about ten times as many systems administrators as it needed?

Yes, my Onion-style headline is made up, but the real one — “NSA to cut system administrators by 90 percent to limit data access” — makes about as much sense. It’s like the Air Force saying it can now fire most of its maintenance workers because it’s started operating aircraft that can fix themselves.

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1 thought on “NSA closes security loophole. Employees must now use pigeon post instead of email

  1. spanglish

    Thank goodness that Keith Alexander and the rest of his ilk are highly decorated fools. This latest ukase – if implemented – will have all of the following beneficial effects:

    So-called “automation” will cause uncounted numbers of snafus and slowdowns. Brute force solutions are the most expensive of all; but hey, that’s the American way. Unless all that “AI” and “Expert Systems” research funded by DARPA and NSA all these years has finally paid off? Who ever heard of an expert system that could _reason_ well enough to solve non-trivial real world problems from scratch?

    The amount of sysadm performed in the short-term and medium-term will increase, not decrease. And overworked sysadms trying to carry a 900% increase in their load will burn out or resign at record rates.

    The productive output of the NSA, together with it’s ability to innovate, and to adapt itself, will drastically decrease.

    The culture inside NSA, which I imagine is fairly nasty to begin with, will also become unbearable. Morale will flatline.

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of people.

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