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Don't Bother Me with Work

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By Allan Holmes March 20, 2007

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Computer programmers and network administrators are used to operating behind locked doors, which, at times, can have quite sophisticated entry-control systems, such as biometric scanners. The locks are usually there for a good reason: to keep unauthorized employees (including non IT managers) away from databases that store private information and critical applications that run the agency. (Take a tour of the Social Security Administration computer network at its Baltimore, Md., headquarters to understand how serious the agency takes physical security.)

But some federal IT employees may lock the door to the IT department for other reasons that have nothing to do with security, according to an article posted today by Ralph Smith at FedSmith.com. Smith writes about a case that came before the Federal Labor Relations Authority concerning a locked door at an agency's IT office. According to the case proceedings, Smith wrote, the union argued that the agency's IT employees locked the door because "it kept anyone from 'tattling to management about what is [or] is not being done,'" and an open door would subject the IT staff to a "'hostile working environment' leading to interruptions and 'snide remarks from other [agency] personnel.'"

The FLRA sided with management, who wanted the door open.

Apparently, the union did not offer any security reason for locking the door. That's odd, because almost any security expert will tell you that locking the doors to the computer room is a basic step an organization should take to protect networks from unauthorized employees (i.e. non-IT employees), who may want to steal or sabotage data. (Smith did not say what the IT employees did behind the locked door.) A brief example of why doors need to be locked from CSO Magazine illustrates the point.

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