Is the issue ethical?
The issue about NSA powers is ethical because NSA must not inflict fear in users due to NSA privileges. The Iron law of responsibility suggests “in the long run, those who do not use power in a manner which society considers responsible will tend to lose it” (Carroll). Therefore the social and ethical responsibility of NSA suggests that professionalism and personal integrity are necessary for compliance with laws and policies and to maintain system integrity. The misuse of power shall not only endanger the job of NSA but also may be detrimental to the security of the network and in such a scenario NSA may be a threat to security.
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If any administrator is ever unsure … may be in breach of the law. (University of Glasgow)
Is the issue unethical?
The issue about measure (too much, too little or enough) of NSA power is not ethical because NSA has just enough powers required to execute the NSA work responsibility. If the network users are threatened by the authority of NSA or have conflict of interest then the network users must resolve the conflict with the guidance from the supervisor or the organization information security policy document. If the NSA powers are limited and obstruct execution of NSA work responsibility then NSA must resolve the issue with the supervisor. It is often noticed that NSA may attain self-assumed responsibility of policing the network users this may cause conflict with the users and raise questions about NSA powers.
Administrators must not act to monitor … to which it will apply (University of Glasgow).
Application of Ethical Theory
Need for ethics
Network system administrators have to deal with sensitive user and organization information, they have more authority as compared to other network users this provide them access to official and personal data stored on organization computers. They must ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the data for which they have access privilege. The moral ethics are defined because NSA has to interact with all users of the network irrespective of their sex, color, caste or nationality.
The need for ethics arises because:
- Awareness of other user’s confidential information must not have adverse affect.
- NSA must not use authority and privilege for unauthorized and inappropriate access of network resources.
- NSA must honor other user’s work responsibility and code of ethics while executing own work responsibility in order to avoid conflict of interest or conflict of management.
- NSA may be interrupted by the user and summoned to act on urgent network problems.
- NSA must have a “clear understanding of proper procedure and usage” (Residence Hall).
Code of ethics
NSA work role and responsibility requires that authority and privileged powers must be given to individuals with personal qualities such as “honesty, integrity and unquestionable work ethics” (University of Glasgow). The application of NSA powers within the scope of defined code of ethics is described as (The System Administrator’s Code of Ethics):
Professionalism: NSA must not deliberately target an individual to settle their personal scores by monitoring an individual’s machine, transmitted data or other activities. E.g. “Child pornography is illegal in the U.S., but the law does not necessarily require individuals to report it” (Harbert).
Personal Integrity: In the event of security breach NSA must report the security incident to the Incident Response Team without any favor or prejudice.
Privacy: NSA has power and prowess to attain information that NSA does not have right to know. NSA must not use the authority and ability to get information, but if the information is received during execution of work responsibility, NSA must not break the confidentiality of the information.
Laws and Policies: In the event of conflict due to scope & authority of work responsibility NSA must both seek advice from the supervisor or the policy document and avoid showdown.
The law differentiates between operational … operational or policy role. (University of Glasgow)
Communication: All ideas, suggestions and advice for the improvement of network services must be communicated to the authority through official mode of communication before action.
System Integrity: NSA must not allow friends to misuse NSA power by sharing confidential information in the knowledge of NSA, NSA must not allow unauthorized access to systems under NSA’s control, and NSA must not share username, e-mail IDs and passwords with others (University Computer and Network Code of Ethics).
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Education: NSA must update technical know-how with latest network administration technology in order to ensure that power and prowess are not challenged due to incompetency, for optimized use of network resources and for better performance of the network. NSA may share know-how by creating network posters, to assert power & prowess (What exactly is a System Administrator?).
Responsibility to Computing community: NSA must work with network users to ensure that network resources are not misused.
Social Responsibility: NSA must cooperate with network users to define new network policies for the benefit of all.
Ethical Responsibility: NSA must use power to affect the network policy by reporting security incidents, resource under performance and malpractices; NSA must use prowess to suggest solutions for identified problems. NSA must not consider the powers to be useless if an immediate action is not taken to the satisfaction of NSA.
“Let the company handle it,” he says. “Make sure you … making that decision” (Harbert).
NSA has prowess that complements the power to ensure optimum performance and utilization of network resources. Unless granted power and authority NSA must restrain from acting against defaulters.
Administrators must not monitor … official incident handling procedure (University of Glasgow).
NSA powers may be questioned and challenged by network users if wrong configuration and insecure networking resources are found to affect the performance of the network. Therefore it is necessary that Information Technology policy about configuration of domain names, IP addresses, network segments, routers and servers is implemented rather than experimentation and demonstration of NSA powers (Residence Hall).
NSA must be impartial in the implementation of technology on network segments and allocation of resources to users unless directed otherwise. NSA must assert the powers to ascertain network optimization, security and optimum use of network resources by elimination of redundant elements such as routers, network segments and firewall routers. NSA must be able to isolate and identify network defaulters such as hackers, spammers and overload generators (such as printer or data base server) who violate Information Security policy(University Computer and Network Code of Ethics; Residence Hall).
Information Technology prowess and the role responsibility gives NSA power to ensure proper utilization and security of network resources. Unless stated in NSA work responsibility NSA must not use this power to find organization code of ethics defaulters.
Carroll, Andrew. Iron law may guide practices. Online Athens. Web.
Harbert, Tam. (2007). Dark secrets and ugly truth: when ethics and IT collide. Computer World. Web.
Residence Hall and Dedicated Remote Access. (n.d.).Carnegie Mellon. Web.
The System Administrator’s Code of Ethics. (2006). Web.
University Computer and Network Code of Ethics. (2006). Sacramento State Information Resources & Technology. Web.
University of Glasgow Guidelines for System and Network Administrators. (n.d.). University of Glasgow. Web.
What exactly is a System Administrator? (1999) The OutRider Computing Journal. Web.