The first thing that happened was Silberberg's account got shut down and he was asked to pick a new password. Then he and everyone else had to attend a lot of meetings dedicated to security issues. But he says he was never disciplined and continued to work there for another 10 years.
"People in the office were pretty split about it," he says. "A lot of them came up to me and said that was just what we needed. I think most of them saw how frustrated I was. It's difficult to get things done when you don't have access to the things you need, especially when you're working at a small company that needs the ability to make changes quickly."
Still, Silberberg says he wouldn't do the same thing again today. "If you give up your password in a public forum these days it's a bit different than doing it when you're all running off one Unix box that's not connected to the rest of the world."
True tech confession No. 4: Wipe out!
Then there are those youthful mistakes that are neither accidental nor intended to be helpful. The guilty party in this story doesn't want his name used, so let's call him Jason Bourne.
In the mid-'90s, Bourne worked for a national Internet service provider. His job was to maintain the banks of modems that the ISP's customers would dial into to obtain Internet access. The modem banks were installed in racks facing a large window in a room attached to operations and tech support. Each time someone connected, the lights on the modem would blink green.
"Each little green light represented a connected customer," he says. "Executives would walk VIPs past the window so that they could see all the blinking lights and be thoroughly impressed."
To stave off boredom, the operations and support teams would dare each other to do things, says Bourne, who is now IT director at a Web startup. One of their favorite pastimes was called "wiping the wall."
"All of the modem banks were interconnected and managed from a single console, so you could issue commands to each bank all at once," he says. "Wiping the wall was sending a disconnect command to all modem banks simultaneously."
The ops and support teams would then watch the green lights go dark, starting at the top-left corner of the modem bank and finishing at the bottom right -- disconnecting nearly 10,000 customers in a large metro area.
Slowly the wall would light up again as customers redialed, and everyone would have a good laugh, says Bourne -- except, presumably, the customers who got cut off.
"Back in the '90s, Internet connections were notoriously unreliable, and random disconnects were common and expected," he adds. "But I suspect few people realized how frequently those disconnects were done on purpose for the amusement of a bunch of dumb teenagers."
True tech confession No. 5: Borland unplugged
When Chris Barbin was senior VP at Borland in the mid-2000s, he was asked to help integrate the IT department of a software testing company Borland had just acquired.
"I told my boss at the time that our data centers were a big mess," he says. "He said, 'If you're going to complain about IT, you're going to have to fix it.' That's how I became CIO."
Barbin started as CIO by commissioning a survey of Borland's IT assets. He discovered that the company had some 1,100 servers in its eight primary data centers -- or more servers than employees. Worse, some 200 of them came back as "unknown," meaning that nobody had any idea what they were supposed to do.