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On the company dime: Rogue game server admins tell all

By , Network World
March 21, 2011 05:07 AM ET
Rogue server admins

Network World - Back in January, Scandinavian gamers hijacked a New Hampshire medical center's server to host "Call of Duty: Black Ops" sessions. When asked about that incident, Stephen Heaslip of the gamer site Blues News told Network World that hackers are not the most likely individuals to commandeer corporate servers for illicit gaming: Such appropriations are more often the work of IT administrators, he said. When asked if he could put us in touch with some of these rogue game server admins, Heaslip posted a call to his readership -- and four volunteers stepped forward.

We'll call them Mr. North, who is director of network operations for a midsize manufacturing company; Mr. South, an IT administrator in the poultry business; Mr. East, a university systems admin when he was active in this realm; and, Mr. West, a senior systems admin in the medical industry. Here's what they had to say:

How common is this kind of activity within IT departments?

Mr. North: It is very common to see this kind of stuff going on. As long as the users don't notice something like slow connection speeds or not being able to get their e-mail, no one really bothers us.

Mr. East: I hadn't really seen it discussed until this topic came up on Blues News, but it seemed apparent then that most of the old faces I'd seen posting (on that site) for years had also done the same things.

Mr. West: I would say it is rather commonplace. Obviously at different orders of magnitude depending on how strict management is and the awareness level of people who aren't in on it.

Describe some of the games that you've hosted on company equipment?

Mr. South: I hosted a 24-slot Counter-Strike: Source on a company T-1 for about three years. I brought in my own server and put it under my desk and ran it that way. The only company equipment involved was the switch I plugged into and the router that hit the net. I also hosted a 20-person TF2 server for two years during the same period. This was hosted on a decommissioned server that the company wasn't using for anything. ... We mainly played at night. I don't recall any significant activity during the day.

Biggest insider threat? Sys admin gone rogue

Mr. North: Currently I have "test realm" for World of Warcraft running that we use to test out gear and specs before we commit to doing so with the actual pay version. I have a Red Hat system that is just used for DNS and mysql server that we are hosting the WoW server and vent server on.

Mr. West: In the past we've had Team Fortress 2, Killing Floor, Counter Strike, Minecraft, and a few others. We've actually run the servers off of a few different boxes. As the company grew/changed we'd need to switch things over to a different box so as not to overload a production box with non-production processes. Obviously it's in our best interest to not cause downtime or other issues so as to not draw attention.



What are the primary motivations for doing this stuff? Saving money?

Mr. North: Really it's about two things: The cost savings of hosting our own vent server alone is worth it, but also it's a learning experience for the techs; they have to maintain security at all times on the network as well as load balancing and QoS to allow this to run as smooth as possible.

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