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IT Incompetence Hall of Shame logo, clown doctor, and clown lawyer.

Stop IT Incompetence!

To skip the must-read introduction and go directly to the IT Incompetents Hall of Shame, click on: Government ITIHOS or Business ITIHOS or Media ITIHOS.

What Is IT?

Since Information Technology (IT) is really communication-of-information technology, IT is mostly computer networking. (Cyber is a prefix meaning IT, so for example, IT security is also known as cybersecurity.) Computer includes supercomputers, desktops, laptops, tablets, phones, etc. There has been a "convergence" and all of these devices now communicate -- their most important function -- over the same networks, particularly the Internet. Thus, being an IT expert means being a networking expert.

Networking, at its first, lowest, physical layer (hardware; e.g., cables, wireless), is mostly electrical engineering. At its last, highest, application layer (software; e.g., the World Wide Web), it is mostly computer science. However, at either end, extensive knowledge of the other end is necessary.

Stop IT Incompetence

From my (Dr. Duane Thresher) many years of highest-grade IT education and then work experience and my horrendous experiences as a victim of government and business data breaches, I came to the conclusion that the problem, a massive one -- a plague costing billions and risking national security -- is not hackers, but IT incompetence. In fact, before founding Apscitu Inc. to stop IT incompetence to the highest levels of government and business, I started with the domain names Stop-IT-Incompetence.org (.net, .com).

Whenever one of these IT incompetent organizations got hacked they claimed (and still do) it was a "sophisticated" hack. They pretended that they were not IT incompetent, just that the hackers were IT geniuses. (They also said they could find no evidence hackers actually took any data, or used it if they did, but if they were too IT incompetent to stop the hackers in the first place they would be too IT incompetent to be able to find any such evidence. Moreover, they have an overwhelming incentive not to find any such evidence.)

But most hackers are not IT geniuses performing sophisticated hacks. They are just "script kiddies" using readily-available programs they have little understanding of to exploit security holes that competent IT people would not have allowed (incompetent IT people hate security patches because they often break programs that they could only get to work because of the security holes).

IT incompetents are also a security risk because, knowing they are incompetent, they feel less secure in their jobs so are more easily bribed. Bribery is the reason background checks are mostly credit checks; see my Equifax article. In general, incompetent and corrupt go together.

Most Important: IT Education

The most important IT qualification is IT education, since experience without foundational education is meaningless; having worked unqualified for years is not itself a qualification, just a condemnation of the employer. Would you trust your life to a doctor or a lawyer with no medical or legal education?

No IT Education: "The Defaults Work So I'm A Genius" Syndrome

I have seen IT people, including a state Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) during a massive data breach, list as their only IT qualification "was always interested in computers". This combines disastrously with "The Defaults Work So I'm A Genius" Syndrome.

"The Defaults Work So I'm A Genius" Syndrome is that computer defaults always work so it seems to the user, and any IT incompetent watching him/her, that he/she must be a genius. For example, so that anyone can set it up, and thus anyone will buy it, networking hardware (e.g., routers) and software (e.g., web and email servers) are plug and play and require no IT competence. All the defaults are set by the manufacturer to make them work immediately, whether these defaults are secure or not; usually not, because that would prevent them from being plug and play (for example, for years routers came with no passwords or widely-known passwords). The user then gets a false sense of being an IT expert because he/she could install it and have it work immediately. Sometimes that person will then even do this for relatives and friends who are even more IT incompetent or go into business doing this.

Technical Certifications Are Not IT Education

Companies like Cisco and Microsoft came up with technical certifications, like Cisco's CCNA. These require no classes, just taking a test. These are for-profit tests so they can't be so hard that no one will want to risk a lot of money with little chance of passing. In fact, many have no fixed passing grade. The passing grade depends on those taking the test at the same time such that a majority pass. So if, like the SAT, the test takers get stupider over the years there will still be the same number passing.

For-Profit and Community Colleges Are Not IT Education

For-profit and community colleges (often the distinction isn't clear) offer IT classes based on getting these certifications. This is better than just the certifications but still insufficient. I know this from personal experience; see CCNA in my Credentials page.

For-profit and community colleges have to train quickly and cheaply and, like being a doctor or a lawyer, IT competency can't be achieved that way. Further, anyone qualified to teach IT could make a lot more money actually doing IT, so the teachers at these colleges are usually not qualified. For for-profit colleges, this assumes that they are not just student loan scams, like ITT Technical Institute (which is the only college the CIA's CIO has).

An IT education means a BS or better (for higher positions) in an IT subject like computer science or electrical engineering (ideally both) from a good university.

IT Hiring

The non-IT-educated are then hired by government and business, including the media. The human resources departments of these have no idea what is required for IT competency. At best, they lazily hire based on technical certifications, or at least the applicant's word that they have these.

Both government and business also feel a lot of pressure to be "diverse". And government and business don't care about what they don't understand, like IT. So they fill many IT positions, particularly IT leadership positions like Chief Information Officer (CIO), by IT incompetent but diverse people. However, trading security for IT incompetent diversity is a fool's bargain.

Hiring IT leaders like CIOs from the IT incompetent makes hiring the IT competent even harder. The IT competent don't want to work for the IT incompetent; it is frustrating and demoralizing. And these IT incompetent CIOs then won't know enough to hire, or instruct human resources to hire, the IT competent. Further, IT incompetent leaders don't want the IT competent to work for them because it is very threatening.

As government readily admits, it can't compete with business in hiring IT people based on pay. In fact, government is eagerly handing over its IT to business, including national security IT; for example, the NSA to contractors like Booz Allen Hamilton, who gave us high school dropout and traitor Edward Snowden, and the DOD to cloud services like Amazon. But long ago President Eisenhower already warned about the dangers of the "military-industrial complex", which is the same as the government-business complex. And many have warned of the dangers of the government-business "revolving door".

For writers, i.e. the media, the most important advice has always been "write what you know", including going to college to study the subject you are going to write about, not English or journalism. For democracy to work, the media is supposed to keep the public, government, and business well-informed. Further, readers assume that IT writers are qualified to talk about IT so writers talking about IT without being qualified is fraud, particularly when the writers conspicuously don't give their IT education qualifications.

Government and business, including the media, should check that IT applicants have a BS or better (for higher positions) in an IT subject like computer science or electrical engineering (ideally both) from a good university.

And just because you can't find enough IT competent to hire doesn't mean you should hire the IT incompetent. I worked at one government research institution where the IT support was terrible. After complaints from the researchers one IT incompetent was fired, without replacement, and the IT support was much better after that!

If you can't do IT right, don't do IT at all.

If business and government won't tell you the qualifications of their IT people it is because they are IT incompetent. If they weren't, business and government wouldn't hesitate to advertise them.

In business or government you should always ask for the IT qualifications of those doing the actual IT work. I do all the actual IT work for Apscitu Inc. and I am exceedingly well-qualified; see my Credentials page. Apscitu Inc.'s mission is to stop IT incompetence to the highest levels of government and business.

IT Hiring: Foreigners

Business, including media, and government have taken to hiring foreigners for IT. This is most obviously because foreigners are cheaper than Americans but there is also the misperception that foreigners are more IT competent than Americans.

That foreigners are cheaper than Americans, even if it is true, should not matter. The H1-B visas that Microsoft and the Silicon Valley companies (Google, Facebook, etc.) so egregiously misuse are explicitly by law not for allowing cheap foreign labor to steal American jobs. They are to allow expertise that cannot be found in America, which there really isn't any since foreigners come to America to gain such expertise.

Further, government and business always want to skimp on things they don't understand, like IT. They never seem to learn that, given the huge cost of a data breach (Equifax for example), it is cheaper in the long run to just hire the IT competent from the start.

If you can't afford to do IT right, then don't do IT at all.

The misperception that foreigners are more IT competent than Americans is part of human nature: the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence (or ocean). Americans for example, feel British accents imply intelligence. Years ago this was admitted to me by a British consultant at Andersen Consulting. Andersen Consulting, now Accenture, was the firm, as Arthur Andersen, that was dissolved due to its failure to discover massive accounting fraud by its client Enron; see my Enron article. Indians from India have a British accent and are American business' favorite foreigners to hire for IT.

Worse, foreigners have education systems that can't easily be compared to America's -- and most are inferior, that's why so many foreigners come to America for college -- and their degrees are much harder to verify. Further, foreigners are more willing to lie about their qualifications, since they have less respect for U.S. law.

Foreigners have less respect for U.S. law because they did not grow up with it and they can flee to their home country if they break it. It's perfectly legitimate to question the allegiance of a foreigner, even after they become citizens (dual citizenship is even more problematic). The U.S. Constitution clearly stipulates that the U.S. President must have been born in the U.S. The Founding Fathers, who were smart men, understood human nature and the danger of pretending otherwise. Civilizations have fallen because they brought foreigners -- cheap labor, like slaves -- in to do the work; for example, Rome and the American South.

Hiring foreigners is thus a security risk, including to national security, since government is handing over its IT to business, which is hiring foreigners.

In the media, a foreign writer should not write for Americans because he cannot know what Americans think and feel about IT issues like censorship, privacy, and foreigners taking American jobs, like IT writing.

Being a foreigner thus makes one IT incompetent. You do indeed get what you pay for.

Apscitu Inc. is a U.S. corporation and I am a U.S. citizen, born in the U.S.A. I was born on an Air Force ICBM base during the Cold War while my father, an Air Force officer, was manning a missile silo (plus a couple of years ago my wife, daughter, and I lived among active silos in Montana), and I was raised on Air Force bases throughout the U.S. and the world. While I was at MIT I did some mathematical modeling of nuclear war scenarios with Russia. My years of work with U.S. Government supercomputers at NASA and ARSC, a Department of Defense facility, required clearance. My brother, a former police officer, is an ICE agent for the Department of Homeland Security.

IT Incompetents Hall of Shame

To stop IT incompetence to the highest levels of government and business, including media, requires shaming individuals who are IT incompetent, particularly IT leaders like CIOs.

To that end, Apscitu Inc. has established an IT Incompetents Hall of Shame, which actually has three wings: Government, Business, and Media. (Conceivably there could be an Education wing, and there may be in the future, but for now we just blanket shame for-profit and community colleges; see above.)

Given that government is handing over its IT to business there is a lot of cross-listing between the Government and Business wings. Similarly, media is a business.

The Hall of Shame will be continuously updated and there are enough IT incompetents to last for a long time to come. Check back often and we will be announcing additions on Twitter, including directly to the inductee, if possible. You can think of Apscitu's IT Incompetents Hall of Shame as the LinkedIn of IT incompetents.

We of course include the most notorious examples: in the Government wing, the Hillary Clinton IT tech who risked national security and cost Hillary Clinton the presidential election; and in the Business wing the Equifax data breach CISO who was a music major. There are none for the Media wing because obviously the media does not write about its own IT incompetents. That's also why there won't be any media coverage of Apscitu Inc.'s IT Incompetents Hall of Shame. You'll hear it here first, but that will be true of the other two wings as well.

To go to the IT Incompetents Hall of Shame, click on: Government ITIHOS or Business ITIHOS or Media ITIHOS.