In a company full of people who don't understand computers, the IT guy is like a wizard. If you get a weird error message, you're not getting any work done until he makes it all better. In some offices, these guys wield more power than the owner of the company.
And if you want proof, just look at what happens when they get pissed off ...
If we told you that a young computer whiz disabled more than 100 cars from his computer, you'd probably think "Man, this Hackers remake is gonna suck." That's the sort of wildly impossible feat that could only come from Hollywood's ridiculous conception of technology ("Oh no, the hackers have taken over our cars using their cache matrix nodes!") And yet, it happened. And here's the guy who did it:
The real-life Angelina Jolie.
Twenty-year-old Omar Ramos-Lopez was an employee for an Austin-based car dealership until February of 2010, when he was let go from the company and his passwords were revoked. His former coworker's passwords, however, were not. This was a problem for the customers of the Texas Auto Center.
You see, part of Ramos-Lopez's job involved using a system a called WebTeckPlus to remotely turn off the cars whose owners were late on payments -- basically, there's a little box installed inside every car that, upon receiving a wireless signal, can disable the ignition system. You can see where this is going.
That is, nowhere.
Using someone else's password, Ramos-Lopez logged in to the system and shut down the cars of more than 100 random unsuspecting customers, who then proceeded to flood his former employer's office with angry calls since, you know, they weren't actually behind on their payments at all. Some of them even reported horns going off incessantly in the middle of the night, which was also within Ramos-Lopez's newfound powers and could only be stopped by going out and removing the car's battery. We're guessing that most of these people weren't even aware that something like this existed (we sure didn't) and assumed some sort of demonic possession was involved.
This caused a variety of problems. While the system can't shut down cars that are already in movement, anyone who was driving to work and stopped to buy a falafel suddenly found themselves stranded in the middle of the street. It took two days for Texas Auto Center to figure out what was causing this -- in the meantime, people missed work, missed school and had to spend money on tow trucks because of a jobless IT guy with too much time on his hands.
They should feel lucky that he didn't activate "self-destruct" mode.
Employees at the dealership first noticed something weird was going on earlier the same month, when they were billed for $130,000 in GPS equipment no one remembered ordering. Also, Tupac Shakur had apparently purchased a 2009 vehicle from them, which would require either a time machine or enormous forethought on his part. Turns out Ramos-Lopez had been going over the company's database, changing names and messing with the records like a common Wikipedia vandal.
Eventually, the police tracked down Ramos-Lopez's IP address and charged him with breach of computer security and with being a dick. Which would be a terrible injustice if it turned out Ramos-Lopez was innocent and that Tupac's ghost was responsible for everything.
Though we do think it's weird that his 2011 tour, I'm not Dead, Assholes, is doing so well.
When Walter Powell, the former director of information management for the Baltimore Substance Abuse System, was fired from his job in 2009, he did not go quietly. And, where some of us might only leave a drunken message on the boss's voice mail, Powell used his computer expertise to remotely install password-stealing software on the company's computers. This gave him remote access to the work stations of several employees ... including his supervisor, BSAS CEO Greg Warren. Also known as the guy who fired him.
During the next month, Powell illegally accessed the BSAS network over 100 times and became their personal computer gremlin, "accidentally" forwarding confidential information to other people just for kicks, and sending out fake emails from the account of his former boss. We don't know what those emails said, but we can take a guess.
"What?! The email clearly stated ..."
And then came his master stroke: Powell learned that Warren was set to deliver a PowerPoint presentation in front of the BSAS board of directors -- which, by the way, includes the mayor of Baltimore, the commissioner of the police department and the president of the Baltimore city council, among others.
At some point during the presentation, Powell hacked into Warren's computer, rebooted it and replaced a slide with a picture of a naked woman, which was displayed on the 64-inch screen.
"The clitoris represents our year-over-year revenue growth."
Powell's pranks ended up costing BSAS $80,000 in security upgrades. For all of his antics, he was only sentenced to 100 hours of community service and a two-year suspended sentence, but he received the distinction of being the first person to be charged by the city of Baltimore for computer hacking.
You have to have goals, is what we're saying.
In July 2008, the mayor of San Francisco walked into a jail with the specific mission of talking with one man imprisoned there: Terry Childs.
This prisoner held something of vital importance to the city: the passwords to a system that controls every network in San Francisco, which only he knew. Why did Childs have access to that system? Because he's the one who created it ... and the one who locked everyone out.
"I could spring myself out of jail any time, but hey, free rape."
Childs had worked for the city as a computer engineer for about five years before he learned that he was about to get fired. So, he decided to take some insurance policies on his employment: He modified the networked system he had helped develop from the ground up, which controls everything from the mayor's email account to police records to inmate bookings, and changed it so that only he could access it.
When his employers asked him for the codes, he refused to give them up and was arrested. Even in jail, he would only give out fake codes, presumably just to mess with everyone since he was obviously beyond fired at this point.
"That's E-A-T, space, S-H-I ..."
Officials could still access the network, but they couldn't modify it on an administrative level, since Childs was the only administrator. The city set a bail of $5 million (five times more than a murder defendant) because they feared that if Childs got hold of a computer, he would log in to the network and delete everything -- the mayor later admitted that San Francisco was "in peril" because they were locked out of the network. The city spent nearly $1.5 million desperately trying to regain access (and failing) and testing further vulnerabilities that could potentially make them look stupid.
Childs, who was sentenced to four years in prison and charged a $1.5 million fine, was so paranoid that when he first learned about his possible firing he created a tracing system that would let him know what his coworkers were saying about him.
"Paranoid? Me? We'll see how paranoid I am when they find child porn on your hard drive."
After 12 days of sitting in a jail cell, Childs finally agreed to give out the passwords ... but only if the mayor himself came to play Clarice Starling with him, saying he didn't trust other people with the passwords to "his" creation. We're surprised he didn't send the mayor all around the city solving clues to piece the password together like the goddamned Riddler.