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Fatal distraction: 7 IT mistakes that will get you fired

Dan Tynan | Sept. 10, 2013
True tales of IT pros who screwed up big and got fired quick.

The factory's general-purpose IT guy, who was responsible for ensuring backups were made, had simply forgotten about them. He was on the unemployment lines the next day.

Failure to maintain backups is an all too common screwup, and the mistake is often fatal to one's job security, Schlissel says.

"The first thing we do when we visit a new client is to check the backups," Schlissel says. "This is a classic IT horror story, one we often tell clients. We're not trying to scare them, we just want to make sure their assets are protected."

Moral of the story: A backup in hand is worth two bushels of paper.

Fatal IT mistake No. 2: Snooping on the boss
A few months ago, Oli Thordarson got a call from the CFO of a midsize health care provider in Southern California. As CEO of Alvaka, an advanced network management services company, Thordarson and his staff are often asked to act as a virtual CIO for small businesses and to perform forensic investigations.

The CFO told Thordarson he thought someone was secretly reading his email, and he had a pretty good idea who it was: the director of IT.

The CFO said that, over the past two years, this guy had made comments about things he had no business knowing, says Thordarson. "The running joke was that the director of IT knew more about what was going on inside the company than anybody else," he says.

Thordarson had one of his techs modify a real-time network probe so that it would send a silent alert if anyone was reading emails they shouldn't be accessing. Within a few days, Alvaka discovered that the director of IT was indeed reading the CFO's email — as well as messages from the CEO, the chairman, and other top brass. The next day he was reading the want ads at

This problem is more common than you might think, Thordarson adds. In roughly two-thirds of the companies Alvaka advises, techs have the ability to read any employee's email, including that of top executives.

"Did they do it to enable support and then forget to undo it, or did they do it because they wanted to snoop?" asks Thordarson. "We don't really know."

Moral of the story: A fool and his job are soon parted.

Fatal IT mistake No. 3: Covering up the crime
It was a mistake that could have happened to anyone. The IT staff at a major financial institution needed to replace a disk tray for an older storage array. A staffer called the vendor and had one shipped out. But the junior sales guy at the vendor made a mistake and shipped the wrong tray — one for a newer array that was incompatible with the old one.


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