IT inferno: The nine circles of IT hell

The tech inferno is not buried deep within the earth -- it's just down the hall. Let's take a tour

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"When you have a project like Wikipedia that's trying to be a good encyclopedia, you need to enforce certain rules to make sure it stays that way," she says. "The site is harassed on an hourly basis by people who are trying to use it for self-promotion, which makes them much bigger sticklers about enforcing the rules. Wikipedians get a bad rap for being obsessive-compulsive, but that's exactly what you need to be successful."

How to escape: Heresy depends on zealotry and belief in the power of "evangelism," says O'Berry. You can avoid it by keeping your mind open and your eyes on the big picture. "The minute you begin to treat something like a zealot, you reinforce the notion that it's a religion," he says. "It's not religion; it's business. The world survives on compromise. Go too far in one direction or the other and you'll never solve any problems."

7th circle of IT hell: Vendor-on-vendor violence
Description: A dismal miasma full of ogres with $200 haircuts, wielding Louis Vuitton briefcases
People you meet there: Lawyers

In the IT world, violence against individuals is regrettable but fortunately rare. But violence between companies is not -- and the collateral damage is often far more extensive.

"When companies can't compete fairly, they get predatory," notes O'Berry. "That's when all the patent lawsuits start popping up. SCO was probably the worst example, but it's hardly the only one. It's a violent way to do business."

Spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt about your competitors; using a monopoly in operating systems to gain advantage in applications and other software; partnering with companies with the intent of gutting them later; the tech world is rife with vendor violence.

The real victims? Consumer choice and industry innovation.

How to escape: Exiting the circle of company-on-company violence may only be possible via collective action, says O'Berry. "When you squeeze the ecosystem only to your advantage, not caring about the companies you've killed along the way, eventually people will say enough is enough," says O'Berry. "We need to balance our capitalistic nature with some form of societal responsibility."

8th circle of IT hell: Fraudulent practices and malevolent hackers
Description: A slippery pit of deception where daemons lurk in the shadows and nothing is as it seems
People you meet there: Scammers, spammers, black-hat hackers, and rogue system administrators

The eighth circle of IT Hell is populated by black-hearted souls who've abused their access privileges to steal money, data, and intellectual property, or simply do damage in response to some perceived wrong, says Adam Bosnian, executive vice president at Cyber-Ark Software, a maker of privileged access management products.

For example, the Société Générale scandal in February 2008 stemmed from one person having too much access to too many sensitive systems, says Bosnian. When bad actors are allowed to aggregate access privileges, it puts them in an excellent position to commit fraud.

"When you mix human frailty, malevolent actors, and power, bad things can happen," he says.

How to escape: You can avoid falling into the circle of fraud by doing a better job of monitoring access privileges, says Bosnian. "The people with the most power -- systems and network admins -- are often not controlled in any way," he says. "You need to be able to see what they're doing and control it at a granular level. When people know they are being monitored, they tend to keep their noses clean."

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