Top 5 system admins in science fiction



Top 5 system admins in science fiction

Length: 2: 14 |
Jul 20, 2020

Jon Ross, Bob Howard, and Felix Tremont are just a few noteworthy sysadmins of the science fiction world. Tom Merritt lists the top five sci-fi sysadmins.



Top 5 system admins in science fiction


Jon Ross, Bob Howard, and Felix Tremont are just a few noteworthy sysadmins of the science fiction world. Tom Merritt lists the top five sci-fi sysadmins.

Heroes get all the glory, but where would they be without tech support? Who made sure the Rebel Alliance’s X-Wing coms stayed clear? Who kept the Enterprise’s LCARS interface up and running? Who took the Tardis down for system maintenance? Well, that last one is probably the Doctor, but who are the top five sysadmins in science fiction?

SEE: Top 5 programming languages for systems admins to learn (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

  1. Jon Ross from Daemon by Daniel Suarez. While not specifically a system administrator, he’s the hacker that helps Detective Pete Sebeck’s fight back against the autonomous Daemon bent on controlling the world.
  2. Bob Howard from the Laundry Files series by Charles Stross. Bob Howard isn’t his real name, but when you’re an IT consultant turned occult field agent that understands magic is just a branch of applied computation used to fight Lovecraftian horror, you keep your real identity secure.

  3. Felix Tremont from When SysAdmins Ruled the Earth. In this short story by Cory Doctorow Felix is one of the IT workers left alive after multiple coordinated attacks cause all governments to collapse. Those quarantined in data centers survive to rebuild.

  4. Randy Lawrence Waterhouse from Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. He’s an expert systems and network admin with the Epiphyte corporation. Epiphyte funds the creation of a data haven which leads to complications. And Randy is a key to a lot of it.

  5. BOFH by Simon Travaglia. The BOFH is a rogue computer operator who takes out his anger on those who pester whim with their computer problems. Travaglia posted the first BOFH stories on Usenet starting in 1992. They have been published over the years in Datamation, Network Week, and The Register.

See? Sysadmins can be heroes just as much as captains and smugglers–you just have to know where to look.

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How to get the most out of the iOS 13 printing system


Learn how to print to PDF while on the go and even do custom printing options like labels or manage existing print jobs scheduled through AirPrint right on your iOS 13 devices.

Image: Apple, Inc.

We’ve previously covered how to print on iOS even when you don’t have a compatible AirPrint printer, but did you know that there’s even more that you can do on iOS when it comes to printing? iOS has a very robust printing subsystem that can allow you to export PDFs and more.

In this article, we’ll delve into how to print custom items like labels. We’ll also see how to print to PDF instead of paper and how to manage printer jobs and viewing supply levels.

SEE: Mobile device computing policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Custom printing

Print to PDF instead of printer

Sometimes when you’re on the go (or even when you’re not), it may be important to send a PDF to someone or save a PDF to iCloud Drive that you otherwise normally print for safekeeping.

iOS 13 can handily help in this situation, and it works in any app that supports printing or sharing. In this tutorial, we’ll be using Safari as an example.

SEE: Apple iOS 14: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

To print to PDF using any app that supports printing: 

  1. Navigate to the app and section of the app that supports printing. 
  2. Select the Share (or Print) button in the app to (for Safari, you tap the Share button, then Print).
  3. Using two fingers, pinch apart your fingers as if zooming on the print preview. This will generate a PDF and show a new view.
  4. In this Print Preview PDF view, you can use the Share button (Figure A) to save the PDF to Files, send as an iMessage or an email with ease.

Figure A

Sharing a PDF from a Print Preview is easy and works anywhere printing is supported system-wide.

Printing labels

At the time of this writing, the only way to print labels for contacts is by turning to a third-party app (despite the Mac’s Contacts app having had this feature built-in for years).

If you are using contact sheets for Avery Labels, then look no further than these two apps available on the iOS App Store:

Both of these apps allow you to select the type of printer labels you have available (or enter their sizing manually and they will let you print a sheet of single contacts or multiple contacts per sheet depending on your needs. They also offer clip art features letting you quickly and easily decorate and design your labels.

Managing print jobs and check supply levels

Sometimes before you print, you may want to check to ensure the printer you’ll be using has plenty of ink or toner, and once you’ve spooled a print job, you may need to monitor the status or cancel it. Fortunately, iOS can handle all of these tasks with ease.

Viewing printer supply levels

If you are using a personal printer, it may be important to inspect the ink or toner supply levels of your printer from time to time. If you are an iOS or iPadOS exclusive user, then you may be wondering how to do this without a computer. 

Fortunately, you can do this easily in iOS:

  1. Open the Printer dialog through the Share Sheet (or Print button) in any app that supports printing.
  2. Select Printer.
  3. Select the “i” button beside of the available printer name.
  4. You will now be viewing Printer Info, which contains ink levels, name, and location (if supplied by printer/print server) (Figure B).

Figure B

Viewing ink or toner levels can be done from the iOS print setup dialog in any app.

Manage active printer jobs

When you print with AirPrint, it can be important to be able to manage your print jobs. Once a print job has been started, you can look at the status of the job and cancel the print job by opening the App Switcher (double-tap the Home Button, or swipe up partially on the screen, hold, and release on Face ID devices). 

You’ll see the printer job app as the topmost app (Figure C). Tapping it will give you details like how many pages are being printed and which page is actively being queued. Using the Cancel Printing button, you can stop any active jobs. 

Figure C

When printing on iOS or iPadOS, a new app will appear in the App Switcher to manage the print jobs.

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65% of organizations saw at least 3 OT system intrusions within the past year


As OT tech becomes more advanced, so do the cybersecurity concerns surrounding it, Fortinet found.

Image: ipopba, Getty Images/iStockphoto

The majority of organizations (65%) experienced at least three operational technology (OT) system intrusions within the past year, up from 18% in 2019. Some nine out of 10 organizations said they saw at least one intrusion in the same time frame, a Fortinet report found. 

Fortinet’s 2020 State of Operational Technology and Cybersecurity report, released on Tuesday, examined the massive role security plays in OT professionals’ responsibilities. As OT tech becomes more advanced, so do the cybersecurity concerns surrounding it. 

SEE: Zero trust security: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

OT is critical for the function of the economy, powering factories, energy production and transmission facilities, transportational networks, and utilities worldwide. Some of the latest advancements in OT involve the convergence of its infrastructure with IT networks, improving operational efficiency and profitability, according to the report. 

However, this dependence means that the OT systems adopt all of the security threats IT systems face. Additionally, OT system attack surfaces many times also include Internet of Things (IoT) devices in remote locations. 

This threat landscape means that OT leaders have had to increasingly shift their focus to cybersecurity, more than ever before, the report found. 

OT leader responsibility to security

Some 80% of OT leaders said they regularly participate in cybersecurity decisions, and half said they have final say in those decisions. 

Along with supervising operations teams and managing production efficiency, more than half (64%) of OT leaders said that they are directly responsible for security, too. Nearly three-quarters (71%) said they are regularly involved in IT cybersecurity strategy, up from 56% in 2019, indicating the importance of keeping systems secure. 

However, there is a shift that places OT security under CISOs. Currently, 22% of companies said the CISO manages OT system security, up from 18% in 2019, and 61% said they expect OT security to be transferred to the CISO team in the coming year. 

If that continues as expected, some 83% of organizations will have CISOs managing OT security by next year.

Where OT infrastructures lack protection

While OT leaders have security features in place, some are missing key areas. An example provided in the report involved security information and event management (SIEM) solutions, which is a commonly cited security precaution. 

Even though it is considered common, nearly four in 10 said they lack this tool. Additionally, nearly half lack a Technical Operations Center (TOC) and a Security Operations Center (SOC), with more than half missing a Network Operations Center (NOC). 

Of respondents who do have a SOC, the majority (77%), said they don’t have all OT activities centrally visible by the security operations team. Features that allow for zero-trust access are also absent from organizations, including internal network segmentation (47%), network access control (59%), and multifactor authentication, the report found. 

Some 58% of companies said they see their budgets increasing in 2020, but many OT leaders still struggle with measuring and analyzing security.

Vulnerabilities (64%), instructions (57%), and cost reduction resulting from cybersecurity efforts (58%) are most often reported and tracked, but the last common reported metric is tangible risk management outcomes (43%). This insight shows that OT security may not be fully integrated into the enterprise-level risk considerations, the report found. 

This integration is crucial, however, as only 8% of organizations reported having no instructions over the past 12 months. The most common attacks included malware (60%), phishing (43%), and hackers (39%), according to the report. 

Best practices for top-tier organizations 

The report offered 7 best practices for keeping OT systems safe. 

1. Keep OT activities centrally visible to security operations teams

The report found that top-tier organizations are four times as likely to have OT activities centrally visible to security operations teams. The centralized visibility is critical to having full coverage of security protection within the enterprise. 

2. Track and report on vulnerabilities 

Top-tier OT leaders are 133% more likely to track and report on vulnerabilities found and blocked, according to the report. 

Nearly half of data breaches in the past year fell on software vulnerabilities, but less than half of bottom-tier organizations successfully track and report those flaws. 

3. Place the CISO or CSO responsible for OT security

With OT becoming more connected, security of the systems must be included in the larger cybersecurity infrastructure. Top-tier organizations are twice as likely to have the CISO or CSO responsible for OT security, the report found. 

4. Give OT leaders security responsibility too

Security should be the foundation for OT tech and not considered an afterthought. Top-tier OT leaders are 25% more likely to have direct responsibility for embedding security into OT processes. 

5. Adopt a NOC

Organizations should have centralized visibility and monitoring of network activity across OT environments to guarantee optimum performance and security. Top-tier organizations are 25% more likely to have a Network Operations Center (NOC) to achieve this. 

6. Use response time as a security measurement

More than half of top-tier respondents ranked response time to security issues as either a first or second priority. These successful OT leaders are also 25% more likely to be measured by that response time. 

7. Report on compliance to executive leadership

Compliance is also a big concern for the top leaders of organizations. Top-tier companies said they mostly do regular reports, suggesting they have automated compliance reporting across the whole enterprise, allowing for real-time reporting and quicker improvements. Top-tier OT leaders are also 25% more likely to report on  compliance with industry regulations to company leadership. 

For more, check out Running a more efficient IT security operations center: How to keep tasks on target on TechRepublic.

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