A tale of too much access

Firing an employee is straightforward, right? Alas, that's not always the case

"Stupid is as stupid does," goes the saying, and the type of actions a person decides to do can certainly be mind-boggling.

Many years ago when broadband was not commonly available, I worked for a company that used microwave signals to deliver high-speed Internet in a line-of-sight fashion. It was a one-way model, where uploads were sent over a modem, and the return came via the microwave. This design required loads of modems -- at least 50 in some high-density USR offering. These were installed in a local POP. I seldom had to deal with the modems as I was more involved with the microwave aspect.

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One day, the company sacked "Joe" for poor job performance. Joe was personable enough I suppose, but he would show his true colors in short order.

When required to terminate someone, there are many ways to screw up, and I'm not sure what happened behind closed doors but with Joe the management failed to immediately cut off his remote access. At some point later that evening, he logged in and set all the modems in the POP to autodial 911 repeatedly. None of our customers could use the broadband service, but even worse, Joe effectively throttled the local 911 lines for many hours.

To the best of my awareness, there were no lives lost as a result of not being able to call 911, but the next day we all got a visit from the FBI. They wanted to know pretty much everything we knew about the Joe and were collecting logs for evidence.

I don't know what ultimately became of Joe, but the rumor was that he quickly (like the following day) fled to the Opposite Coast and was hired by a local cable company before the FBI caught up with him.

Ahh, the irony. If Joe's remote access had been terminated immediately, it would have saved the company a visit from the FBI, our customers a night of connection frustration, the FBI a manhunt, 911 a night of headaches, citizens the fast response required by 911 -- and Joe from his own actions.

Many companies have gotten smarter in recent years about cutting off a fired employee's IT access and taking other such company security measures. But one takeaway is this: It never hurts to get managers from all departments together and draw up action plans for situations such as terminations or cutbacks to make sure all scenarios are covered.