Folk Hero or Wrong-Doer?

I don’t consider “Bob” the programmer a folk hero. He drew a salary for a job he didn’t perform, because he had outsourced his work to China. He goofed off and collected a paycheck, while the Chinese company did his work. Verizon describes how they uncovered the off-the-books outsourcing. “Bob” is the pseudonym Verizon assigned to the programmer.

Those who consider Bob a hero tend to cite two things. First, they claim he was only doing what corporate leaders do when they outsource work. He’s just doing to them what they might do to him some day. Second, they note that the guy got good evaluations. The company liked what his Chinese providers were doing.

Here’s why I don’t consider Bob a hero:

  • He’s been lying. He’s been deceiving his employer about who did the work. That’s unethical and dishonest. If he had been up front about it, and helped his employer arrange to get good results inexpensively, then he could be a hero. But he lied about it. In business as in romance, if you’re hiding a secret relationship and lying to cover it up, you’re cheating.
  • He’s been taking money for work he didn’t do. That’s unethical. If you’re an honest broker, the people who engage your services know it. If you pass off someone else’s work as your own, you’re dishonest.
  • He violated a basic security rule by sharing his login credentials. Just about every set of security guidelines on the planet tells you not to share your login credentials with others. Bob did it regularly and often, shipping his security tokens off to his Chinese provider.
  • He violated a confidentiality agreement, and might have put the US at risk. The Verizon write-up says the company was a US infrastructure provider, and “The implications [of the unauthorized access] were severe and could not be overstated.” Bob was routinely granting access on the sly to people who weren’t entitled to the information. This is bad enough in almost any company, but it’s even worse in this case because he was handing privileged access to a foreign power that might not have the purest of intentions toward US infrastructure.

A disturbing aspect of this is that it’s the reverse of the usual espionage scenario: Bob’s foreign handlers didn’t have to pay him to get insider access to US infrastructure. He paid them. Or you might say they paid him in services instead of money. I wonder if this is a new MO for espionage, getting the dupes to pay the handlers instead of the other way round.

No, I don’t consider Bob a hero.

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