Australia's peak technology experts group, the System Administrators Guild of Australia (SAGE-AU), has raised concerns regarding the accuracy of claims made in a recent article published in several Fairfax newspapers ("Email snooping IT admins like 'Dracula in charge of the blood bank,'" Ben Grubb, published April 13, 2012).
The article claims that '40 percent of IT email administrators and IT managers look inside their manager's [...] emails regularly, and read their email,' without providing any qualification or validation of this figure. A single source is quoted; an organisation whose primary focus is the outsourcing of email and other computer system management for Australian businesses.
SAGE-AU does not believe the figure reflects reality, and that the actual figure across all industries is substantially lower than this. The ABS reports crime victimisation rates in the low single digit percentages across a wide range of crimes, and accordingly SAGE-AU would anticipate a similar figure would apply in this context.
SAGE-AU would welcome clear evidence from any party to the contrary, should it exist.
SAGE-AU members are professionals, and upon joining the organisation commit to a published Code of Ethics. This Code of Ethics specifically applies to the appropriate use of an employer's computing assets, and to the need to uphold the privacy and confidentiality of material stored on computing systems. SAGE-AU takes this Code of Ethics seriously - breaches of the code by members can result in expulsion from the organisation.
Further, modern information systems provide multiple audit trails which demonstrate both authorised and attempted or actual un-authorised access to any form of data on a computing system. Actions which result in data access by any user, including system administrators, are logged at time of access and recorded in security log files.
Access by administrators to private data of the scale suggested in the article would simply not go un-noticed.
SAGE-AU does not dispute the article's assertion that administrators of business computer systems have access to vast ranges of sensitive and confidential material. SAGE-AU also confirms that System Administrators are sometimes required to gain approved administrator level access to data such as email content in the course of their professional duties.
Stephen Gillies, President of the System Administrators Guild of Australia had the following advice; “Employers should seek to employ staff with a strong sense of ethics who recognise their professional duties as reflected by their membership of an appropriate professional
Stephen Gillies on 0409 245 888 or email email@example.com
Burke Scheld on 0466 891 973 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
SAGE-AU is the not-for-profit professional organisation representing Australian system administrators: the technology experts who keep computers and networks running. The SAGE-AU Code of Ethics is available at the following web address: http://www.sage-au.org.au/about-us#Ethics