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May 2002

How an inside hacker helped boost jail's Web security

My plan was ingenious. Although my actions were misinterpreted by the media, I allowed a known inside hacker to compromise my systems to vividly demonstrate the need for improving security to my superiors. And it worked. As a sysadmin for the Monroe County (Fla.) Sheriff's Office, I'm responsible for systems operations and security for a network used by more than 500 people. I also have the added bonus of securing the system from hundreds of inmates with plenty of free time on their hands. Inmates on the jail's computers? Yes, inmates have the right to do legal research while awaiting trial. We provide them with a CD-ROM law library to do research. Of course, I secured the inmate accounts as much as possible using access control policies, only allowing them to access the legal software and restricting access to everything else. This arrangement has worked without incident for the last five years. Unfortunately, things change. After the servers were upgraded to Windows 2000, inmate Michael Tanzi, who was awaiting trial for murder...

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