Shionogi shenanigans: Tech journalism hits a new low

Coverage of the Shionogi sabotage includes ridiculous comparisons with the case of Terry Childs -- and much of the reporting is flat-out wrong

As soon as I heard about the apparent IT infrastructure sabotage at the U.S. location of Japanese pharmaceutical manufacturer Shionogi, I knew I'd soon see the name Terry Childs popping up in tech articles all over the Web. I also knew that most if not all of them would flub the facts and try to draw a direct line between the two cases. Sadly, I wasn't disappointed on either count.

Take this article from SC Magazine UK. Several oddities distinguish this particular piece, not the least of which is this:

He then used this to delete the contents of each of the 15 virtual hosts on Shionogi's computer network, each of which contained the equivalent of 88 servers that represented most of Shionogi's U.S. computer infrastructure to support email, BlackBerrys, its order tracking system and its financial management software.

[ Also on Paul Venezia was first to discover the real story behind the bizarre Terry Childs incident. | InfoWorld has the full rundown on Terry Childs's legal exploits. | Stay up to date on the latest security developments with InfoWorld's Security Central newsletter. ]

I'm assuming that what is actually meant here is that there were 15 physical hosts and a total of 88 virtual servers, not 15 "virtual hosts" with 88 servers for a total of 1,320 virtual servers. But whatever the numbers are, here's what actually went down (as far as I can tell):

Jason Cornish was an IT admin at Shionogi who either left or was dismissed. His account was never disabled or removed, however, so he had full run of the infrastructure. Some time later, he decided to take revenge on the company for one reason or another, logged in via VPN, fired up a vSphere client, and deleted all the VMs. It's a classic example of what a destructive rogue IT admin might do: He purposefully and with malice aforethought destroyed an entire server infrastructure.

In some news reports, the writers make it sound as if he installed vSphere secretly and treat it as if it's some dark-arts malicious software. Anyhow, if he actually did "knowingly transmit computer code with the intent to damage computers in interstate commerce" as the criminal complaint reads, then he deserves the criminal charges and jail time, just as you'd expect if he'd burned the place down.

However, in that same article, there's this quote from Mark Fullbrook, U.K. and Ireland director at Cyber-Ark:

We've seen the San Francisco city network come crashing to a halt through Terry Childs and Sam Chihlung Yin threaten Gucci's global brand in similar incidents, all at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars. When will lessons be learnt?

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