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Tuesday, January 31st, 2023, 1:23 am

Bad Tools Make a Bad Company

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Summary: The mentality or the general mindset at Sirius ‘Open Source’ was not compatible with that of security conscientiousness and it seemed abundantly clear that paper mills (e.g. ISO certification) cannot compensate for that

THIS will be the last daily part before we transition to more irregular or infrequent postings, ending with a grand summary some time late in February. This series will never end entirely as we continue to learn more and more things from its readers (yes, many people have been reading it, including past staff).

Today’s important addition is some hard evidence that Sirius was outsourcing passwords; even the partner of the manager admits issues to that effect, e.g. in “Handover to shift 3 – 18/02/2022″ it was noted they had “Sent out Sirius passwords for Monit via LassPass”. In “Handover to shift 1 – 03/08/2021″ it was said that “Apparently the problems with my account are down to a corrupted share key. Will need help from an admin to fix this at a time when I don’t need access to Sirius shared folders.”

Why are we sending our own credentials and clients’ credentials to a third party? This party is controversial for many reasons, including its chain of ownership and jurisdiction, set aside security breaches.

In “Handover to shift 1 – 27/08/2021″ it said: “Got xxxx to remove me from all shared folders so that LastPass support can reset my share key.”

Notice we were also having technical problems; the outsourcing solved nothing and merely created more problems.

In “Handover to shift 3 – 16/08/2022″ (just months ago): “Fiddling with my browser settings because Google Voice didn’t ring when xxxxx did a test call.”

Again, outsourcing the telephone system meant more problems. All of us were having these problems, but managers ended up doubling down on their mistake, moving what’s left of Asterisk (that actually worked!) to what kept failing and failing and failing. Such insane policy-making, detached from any fact- or evidence-based analysis, dooms companies. I raised concerns about this internally more times than I can recall. I received support from colleagues when I complained. They felt the same way, but with criticism not welcomed by managers who make mistakes it proved to be an exercise in futility. An arrogant management is management that’s unable to listen and correct mistakes, with recklessness and stinginess that will inevitably cost the company existing and potential clients (they cannot get through to us on the phone!).

If you notice those patterns in your workplace, consider leaving. I didn’t want to leave an employer where I had worked for so long, but it seemed clear time was running out and the company was sinking/drowning while deflecting the blame*.

As a bit of quick background, Sirius wasn’t always this bad. In the last few weeks or months that I spent in the company (especially the last 2 weeks) I witnessed all sorts of very worrying things; lately, for instance, due to budget or understaffing issues, some qualified and well-equipped staff was passed over (not asked to cover slots) and instead the CEO covered shifts which he could not really do. He lacks access credentials, skills, and tools. In effect, clients were given the wrong impression someone qualified monitored their systems. They’d be wrong to assume this. We basically lied to them. Again.

It is important to stress that qualified staff was available instead (my wife was available), but one can speculate that the CEO, who had moved from Bristol to London, couldn’t keep up with living expenses/costs (his own company’s account has only loose change) and needed extra cash and thus let himself reach out to the Sirius cookie jar. That’s just a hunch. We’re guessing. There’s very little in the public record (hiding past employment, previous education etc.), but as we showed in December he registered his own company at some accountancy’s address and there’s almost no money in the bank account. Should he cover jobs/slots he is unable to cover? The so-called ‘founder’ did the same at least once. Handovers started coming from high-level management. Those people didn’t even have login credentials for clients’ machines!

It was time to leave Sirius. I had planned this for a long time; it wasn’t about money but about morals. Money is a separate issue; if I worked since 1998, would I receive the salary of 25 years ago? Would I want to be associated with such a company 25 years down the line? It’s not the same company at all!

In 2022 the company was going under due to the loss of its largest client; the company was not lying about its financial situation but rather made it seem less gloomy than it really was (same to the clients, to assure and reassure them, just so that they’re confident we wouldn’t go under midway or halfway through the contract).

As we noted here before, there was a severe “dogfooding” deficit; the company spoke about “Open Source” while refusing to use it internally. It actively replaced Free/Open Source software that had been working just fine for over a decade. Instead of being a good example for the workers and the clients, the company went out of its way to cheat and mislead. And instead of making workers familiarised with the products the company claims to support, the company moved staff away from such products. If you are in control of your own stack, then you have to learn how to maintain it. In turn, you can help others do the same. We’re sending mixed messages to clients if we’re outsourcing everything.

The sad thing is that looking back we don’t miss anything except a few colleagues. The management destroyed its own credibility in one day. A humiliating letter with photos of my wife and I (yes, he’s stalking), random clippings from public IRC logs, and even a photo of a koala bear have nothing to do with the company’s operations.

As noted at the start, this series isn’t ending or hibernating; it’ll carry on, albeit at a slower pace.
____
* To give one memorable example of blame-shifting, less than a year ago I received a ‘rebuttal’ to my informal report which said: “So someone from xxxx LLC called, but not authorised for out of hours support. We need to receive clearer instructions if calls we receive on that account are not from xxxx clients.” I put ‘rebuttal’ in scare quotes because it did nothing to refuse what I had said. A manager wrote: “I just wanted to correct a couple of points from Roy’s previous handover below. 1. Unfortunately, the highlighted call in the xxxxx section was incorrectly triaged. We can see from the audit log that this call came through on the US Reception telephone line and not on the xxxx support line. This was highly likely to have been a sales enquiry rather than a support call but insufficient information was gathered for us to be certain.” So whose fault was it? Then there was this lie: “As far as I’m aware, there has been nothing but positive feedback about these notes so far but do please let me know if anybody else has any concerns at all or if there is anything we could to to improve them. The overwhelming majority of you have handled xxxxx calls excellently and I’m very grateful for your work on this. I am also always happy to offer any additional support that may be needed with our processes and policy.” Actually, it was abundantly clear from what colleagues said (sometimes publicly) that they too had issues and many uncertainties. The problem was coordination at the top, as well as terrible tooling provided to staff by clueless managers.

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