Net admin pilot fish is a contractor in a large federal agency, and with several sites to keep track of, he needs the right tool for the job.

"I used to use a port scanner to suss out newly-connected devices on the local LANs I supported," says fish. "It was a convenient way to keep tabs on what was connected, and a good way to grab the address of a new PC or printer without having to bug the users to get me the addresses."

But one day he gets a call from Information Security: "Hey, we see a port scanner on your network. You can't use that!"

But it's on a network I support, and all it does is tell me what's on the network, fish says. It's a big help and saves me all kinds of time.

"Oh no, big security risk! Can't have it!"


"Who's your manager?"

Fish knows that once the security guys have pulled rank, it's a no-win scenario. All right, he says, fine, I'll uninstall it.

Naturally, with the tool gone, what was once a two-minute task turns into a 15-minute ordeal every time something new is added to the network.

It also irritates fish's remote users, who have better things to do than wade through a new printer's front-panel menu to find the IP address, so fish can remote into the printer and set up an appropriate static IP address.

"And no, we weren't allowed to look at the DHCP servers either to see what just got a new address. That would be cheating," grumbles fish.

"Fast-forward two or three days -- and our agency had a headquarters server hacked. About 100,000 federal employees had their personal info stolen. It made big headlines at the time. Our tax dollars ended up paying for a lot of credit monitoring for the affected employees.

"Good thing Information Security was spending their time keeping the world safe from my little port scanner -- as opposed to, I don't know, keeping their servers from getting hacked."

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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