The Hazards of Recommending


Think twice before you agree to recommend someone on LinkedIn. They may be a logic bomber.

You may have already read about the fired Fannie Mae sysadmin who allegedly placed a virus in the mortgage giant’s software. The virus was a bad one: it

was set to execute at 9 a.m. Jan. 31, first disabling Fannie Mae’s computer monitoring system and then cutting all access to the company’s 4,000 servers, Nye wrote. Anyone trying to log in would receive a message saying “Server Graveyard.”

From there, the virus would wipe out all Fannie Mae data, replacing it with zeros, Nye wrote. Finally, the virus would shut down the servers.

Luckily the virus was found and removed. But what has yet to be removed is the suspect’s LinkedIn page which shows that since he was fired he has been working at Bank of America, something I’ve not seen mentioned in news covering the alleged incident.

(Apparently this piece mentions this fact but the information has since been removed. This raises other interesting points: What way is there for a company to police claims by people on networks like LinkedIn that they indeed worked at that company? Why was this information removed from the story or comments?)


What must also be a bit awkward is that the suspect, Rajendrasinh Makwana, has a recommendation on his LinkedIn profile from a project manager at AT&T, who says that

he was much more knowledgable at the subject matter than I was. He demonstrated leadership at times of crisis. He helped me learn the ropes. I would love to work with Raj again.

The recommendation is a mutual one; the person in question gets a recommendation from Makwana as well. But what adds to the awkwardness is that the recommendation was posted on October 25, 2008, which was, according to an affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent Jessica Nye, the day after Makwana’s last day of work—which was when he allegedly planted the virus:

“On October 24, 2008, at 2:53 pm, a successful SSH (secure shell) login from IP address, with user ID s9urbm, assigned to Makwana, gained root access to dsysadmin01, the development server. … IP address was last assigned to the computer named rs12h-Lap22, which was [a Fannie Mae] laptop assigned to Makwana. … The laptop and Unix workstation where Makwana was able to gain root access and create the malicious script were located in his cubicle.”

Ouch. If the FBI is right, the suspect was buffing his CV, seeking recommendations from former colleagues right after planting a script that could have deleted all of Fannie Mae’s data.

Lesson: Think hard before you recommend someone on LinkedIn. How well do you know this person?

Killing the Couch-Loving Individualists

Is HP’s anti-telecommuting move just a bid to shed expensive jobs? Thanks to my old chum Tom Raftery (thanks for the accommodation, Tom, and congrats on the baby!) Bernie Goldbach reckons it is. And he makes the important point that customers

considering H-P as part of a core IT package during the next 12 months–ensure you are comfortable about the manner in which your requests for assistance are to be handled. The mid-career people who consult with you about your enterprise computing purchase today may not be on the H-P payroll at the end of the year. If you are working with someone from H-P to construct a robust data centre, I would ask whether that project manager or IT specialist has to move. You need to know whether the people who are upgrading your services will be around to service it next year, regardless of the hour of the day when you need help. When you buy H-P, you expect better than Wal-Mart.

What I probably didn’t stress enough in my morning post was that telecommuters, whether they’re doing the washing, mowing the lawn or riding a tractor during conference calls, will probably be at their computer long after the cubicle drones are on the beach parasailing. Telecommuters, I suspect, tend to be more diligent, even if they may take a nap on the sofa (I’ve just got a new one by the way; $150 for a very nice custom-made number from Ojolali) in the middle of the day. Whether it’s through guilt at breathing non-cubicle air or a heightened sense of professionalism born of independence, telecommuters are probably more productive than their cubicle-bound brethren.

This seems to be borne out by a survey in Australia conducted by Sensis, which reported that only 1% of businesses reported negative impacts from teleworking. Staff, however, told a different story: 13% felt they were actually working longer hours, according to The Melbourne Age. It’ll be interesting to see what happens at HP.