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IT Ethics Handbook:: Right and Wrong for IT Professionals [Paperback]

Stephen Northcutt , Cynthia Madden , Cynthia Welti
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

July 15 2004 1931836140 978-1931836142 1
The target audience for this book is any IT professional responsible for designing, configuring, deploying or managing information systems. This audience understands that the purpose of ethics in information security is not just morally important; it equals the survival of their business. A perfect example of this is Enron. Enron's ultimate failure due to a glitch in the ethics systems of the business created the most infamous example of an ethics corporate breakdown resulting in disaster. Ethics is no longer a matter of morals anymore when it comes to information security; it is also a matter of success or failure for big business.

* This groundbreaking book takes on the difficult ethical issues that IT professional confront every day.

* The book provides clear guidelines that can be readily translated into policies and procedures.

* This is not a text book. Rather, it provides specific guidelines to System Administrators, Security Consultants and Programmers on how to apply ethical standards to day-to-day operations.

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Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Bill Murray's character, Dr. Venkman, is fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing and thus is in good company with most workers in information technology. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must have for IT professionals June 15 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This insightful book should be on the shelf of every IT professional!! I like the way the book is laid out with conservative and liberal viewpoints of each ethical dilema. I was thoroughly entertained with the amusing stories and anticdotes of the crazy situations people in the industry have found themselves in, many of which I can relate to my own personal experiences.
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Amazon.com: 2.4 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Uneven and irrelevant throughout... Sept. 26 2004
By Thomas Duff - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Over the last couple of months, I've been reading a book titled IT Ethics Handbook by Stephen Northcutt (Syngress). I'd like to say I spent all that time examining ethical issues, when in reality it was just a hard book to finish...

Chapter list: System Administration and Operations; Audit; Vulnerability Disclosure; Digital Postmaster; E-mail Scams; Information Security Officers; Programmers and System Analysts; Database Administration; Information Service Providers; Brother's Keeper; End-user and Employee Computer Security; Customer Ethics; Trusted Assistant; Ethics and Contractors/Consultants; Telecommuting and Mobile Computer Security; Personal Computer Users; Penetration Testing; Content Providing; Privacy; Management/Employer Ethics; Conclusion

Each chapter is made up of a brief discussion of ethical matters in that particular area, followed by vignettes where you have to figure out what you'd do. The author gives a "conservative" and "liberal" answer to the dilemma, followed by a summary of what they consider the right answer to be. While there's some benefit to be gained from thinking through some of the scenarios, the content is just far too uneven and in some cases irrelevant. It took me a number of attempts to find where the author explains what is meant by the conservative and liberal "answers". They are so extreme as to be comical in some cases. Apparently the author uses them as "guardrails" to set the boundaries of the issue. Even then, the author's answer is often too liberal for my tastes or just wishy-washy. In one scenario, the question is asked if IP spoofing is acceptable if it causes no damage (since it's a way for super hackers to show off). The author feels that at best it helps shore up security, and at worst it eats up resources and causes destruction. So what? Is it right or wrong?

In the Personal Computer Users area, the first scenario is being unable to stop playing FreeCell when your husband asks you to come to bed and not play past midnight. For the life of me, I don't see how this has anything to do with IT ethics. The whole Trusted Assistant chapter has nothing to do with IT. It's basically about what an administrative assistant should or should not be able to do. Fine for general business, out of place for IT ethics. And as a final nit, the chapter on Information Service Providers has the term misspelled at the top of each page ("Information Sercive Providers").

While it's possible to get some value from this book, I feel it could have been much better.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't know right from wrong? This book isn't going to help. Dec 7 2004
By brian d foy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Have you ever wondered if you are doing the right thing? Is is okay to steal from work? How about downloading pirated music using the company network? Do the rules apply to everyone? Can I do whatever I want if I'm a system administrator?

These are real topics covered in "IT Ethics Handbook". Sadly, each answer comes in two varieties: Conservative and liberal (each of which get their own font!). If you don't like one answer, you can just choose the other. The (long) list of contributors put their heads together to come up with rationalizations for both sides.

I tend to think that if you have to ask the question, you already know the answer, and if you truly don't, asking your friends, boss, or co-workers will clear it right up. Heck, the employee handbook might even answer them. The book doesn't really lay a foundation for ethics, but sticks to specifics questions. Indeed, it seems to ignore the idea that ethics isn't an absolute, and may vary between different groups and cultures. They merely mention all that stuff in the introduction, but then quickly discard it.

Some other paraphrased questions, in case you still think you need this book. You can quickly find a rationalization for the right and wrong of each and apply the answer that you like best.

* Can I write malicious virus code for profit?
* Should I use somebody else's login and password?
* Can I use company resources for personal gain?
* Can I videotape my co-workers having sex in the hallways? (real question)
* Do I have to obey the law?
* Can I be lazy?
* Can I spy on employees?
* Can I take revenge on a co-worker?

Perhaps this book is for the guy who wears the expensive suit and takes off fridays to play golf.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This could have been better Feb. 2 2005
By Michael R. Brown - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I really wanted to like this book. There are a lot of good things in it, but the negatives outway them.

Problems:

* No bibliography, refrences or pointers to further reading/research. There have been other books on it/computer ethics, this is not the first.

* The slant seems too much toward ethics as it relates to security and security-related matters. There's more to it/computer ethics then that.

* No mention of the several professional organizations of IT/ITSEC people!!! Slight mention is made of ACM & IEEE, but no mention of SAGE (the System Administrators Guide at [...]) which is THE professional association of sysadmins, who have spent YEARS developing a professional code of ethics. This code should have been included in the book. And what about the several professional groups of ITSEC people, like ISSA (Information Systems Security Association at [...]) which also has a code of ethics, Computer Security Insitute ([...] and so forth?? They should have been mentioned. (and since SANS, the authors group, did stuff with SAGE, ignoring them is pretty bad).
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Walk the walk... Oct. 29 2005
By PeterRSA - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
It would be good if the author were capable of following his own advice; his personal examples contradict themselves on many important points, and when the moral questions get tough, he (or she) dashes away like a frightened rabbit, metaphorically speaking. A quick Google search turns up several lawsuits and evidence that this author is definitely not someone who should be writing about IT ethics under any circumstances.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How Do You Truly Define Ethical Right and Wrong in IT? Nov. 1 2004
By Christopher Byrne - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
When do we as information technology professionals cross the line ethically? Who us to say what is right or wrong? Are there absolutes? Or is everything just relative. These are some of the questions posed by Stephen Northcutt in IT Ethics Handbook - Right and Wrong for IT Professionals ( 648 pages ; Syngress, 2004). The only problem is that for this reader, the book left me with more questions than it answered, though I found the many examples and "case studies" included would provide good references for discussion purposes.

The first thing that caught my attention was the author's identification of "moral relativism" as one of the dominant "religious thoughts" in the world today. The author also boldly states that in many cases "moral relativism" will "rapidly get you fired in the workplace". This latter statement may or may not be true, but itstruck me more as an ethical goal in a perfect world than as statement of fact. And there is no way in the world that this reader would consider "moral relativism" a stream of religious thought because it has no grounding in religion at all. It is a by-product of the drive for a secular society in today's world. It seems that the author does acknowledge to some degree that moral relativism is a culprit in the ethical quandaries of today, it serves as the framework for the discussion of each ethical issue raised, casting answers in a "conservative" and "liberal" point of view to show the extremes of the answers to different scenarios.

It is here that the readers of this book would need to be very careful, as is the challenge in looking at any case study, since nothing is always cut and dry since a scenario does not always include all the factors that can drive it. The author does acknowledge this and states that every case study and answer set offered may or may not be applicable to given organizational circumstances.

All of this being said, I would not recommend this book for anyone expecting to find cut and dry answers that they can apply to their organization. I would recommend it as a desk reference to use for ethics training session or to find information for the starting point of discussions for ethics issues that may arise at any given time in the workplace. The price is not that expensive that you would not get at least some value out of the book, even if it just challenges your thinking about what issues really fall under the realm if "IT Ethics" or how you would approach a given situation.

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