Arrest Of Goldman IT Worker Shows Failure Of An IT Leader

by drjim on July 16, 2009

Sergey Aleynikov Has Been Accused Of Taking Code - Where Where The IT Leaders?

Sergey Aleynikov Has Been Accused Of Taking Code – Where Where The IT Leaders?

Sergey Aleynikov, 39 years old,  was arrested by the FBI as he got off a plane at the Newark Liberty International airport. Aleynikov is being charged with stealing data with “the intent to convert that trade secret to be economic benefit of someone other than the the owner”.

Keeping in mind that everyone in this county is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, this appears to be a case of an IT worker who seems to have made some bad decisions. However, I believe that the case shows that there was an IT Leader who made some even bigger bad decisions…

Just The Facts Ma’am

Sergey Aleynikov was a Goldman Sachs vice president who quit his job last month and took a new job with a Chicago based financial trading company called Teza Technologies. From all accounts this sounded like a good career move – his salary was going to triple.

Goldman Sachs’s corporate computer systems detected that on four separate occasions Aleynikov scooped up a series of files, encrypted them, and then transferred them to an outside web site. Goldman then notified the FBI and the rest, as they say, is history.

IT Leader Failure

No matter if Aleynikov had criminal intent, or if Goldman is just trying to use him as an example so that nobody else leaves, this is clearly a failure of IT Leadership. Here’s what’s gone wrong at Goldman:

  • Code Policy: Lots of IT employees work from home these days. It’s not clear that Goldman has any policy that states just where their precious computer code can reside. Can it be downloaded to a home computer, worked on, and then uploaded or does all work have to occur online using company approved code editors.
  • Check Out Policy: Who has what code and when do they have it? It appears as though Goldman has a policy that says that “… any nonpublic documents obtained while working for Goldman need to be returned” once you resign. How can you tell what code someone has (and how can they remember) if you don’t have a code checkout policy in place?
  • Computer Monitoring Reminder: The easiest way to prevent code theft is to constantly be reminding everyone that their every online movement is being watched and recorded. Tell them that you don’t have time to review it every day, but you can if you have to. This will reduce the possibility of theft.

Final Thoughts

The case of Sergey Aleynikov could have been prevented if Goldman’s IT Leaders were doing their jobs. Creating policies and tools that make it easy to comply with company code tracking policies are a good first step. This has to be followed by a consistent education program that lets everyone know what is permitted – and what isn’t. If the IT Leaders at Goldman can figure out how to do this, then they will have found a way to transform themselves from an IT manager into a true leader.

Questions For You

Do you think that Aleynikov was stealing code to use at his new job or just an innocent IT worker? Do you think that Goldman’s IT managers did a complete job or is this a screw-up? Could something like this happen where you work? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As an IT Leader, you’ve got some challenges facing you. You’re managing a diverse and potentially distributed work force of highly skilled and talented IT professionals. You need to find a way to keep them challenged, and yet at the same time enable them to find ways to work together. Have you considered Alternate Reality Games?

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