12 January 2015. A4 writes:
There is a big difference between general "IT workers" and highly competent
systems administrators. The latter group routinely makes 6-figure USD salaries
because they are in extrmely short supply. This is revealed by a few minutes
on LinkedIn checking salaries for UNIX or Linux systems engineering jobs
at top-tier firms. It is a rare level of competence which is required for
someone who will be trusted with broad access across a large enterprise.
If anyone has never met an IT worker with a 6-figure salary, it's only because
they haven't worked in an environment with unique, complex, high-stakes IT
needs. The vast majority of companies simply do not have such needs, do not
require such expertise, and can manage IT given marginally competent systems
administrators. The vast majority of self-proclaimed sysadmins are only
marginally competent. The notion that the price of anything is based on its
value to society, rather than supply and demand, is a good laugh.
12 January 2015. A responds to A2 and A3:
In response to A2 & A3, I'd like to first repeat my reply to A2 which
I don't see posted here:
In response to A2, neither of these points is any indication of genius. In
fact, quite a few IT professionals routinely advise management on cybersecurity
matters. It's a routine part of the job for a lot of IT people. And as for
"EpicShelter", such redundant backup systems are actually quite commonplace
now. I doubt Edward Snowden did much real design either. It's more likely
that he just read the manufacturer's spec sheets and the manuals that came
with the equipment. Putting together a backup solution is hardly designing
and integrating a complex system. It's a small piece of a possibly larger,
possibly complex system. And it certainly wasn't an act of genius. It's not
like he single-handedly invented quantum chromodynamics or proved the Poincare
conjecture. What Snowden did is what a *LOT* of people do on a routine basis.
Edward Snowden? He's just an average guy, with above average hype.
I don't want to be nasty, but the insular perspective of A3's comments are
absolutely breath-taking. I have to wonder if he lives in the same United
States as the rest of us, the one that's located between Canada and Mexico
and has a average salary of around $45,000.
>$170k (realize, that's only $85/hr) may seem outlandish to those who
aren't familiar with the buckets
ONLY $85/hour? There are a lot of people who have multiple advanced degrees
including PhDs in extremely challenging fields such as science and engineering
who are unemployed. Quite a few of those people would be happy to earn half
that amount. And they probably know and can innovate much more than your
>of money thrown at good IT (specifically security) talent anymore. I'm
familiar with an organization
>that used to routinely throw 6 figure salaries at completely untested
developers fresh out of school (or
>off the boat) and a cool quarter mil/yr for someone with 3-5 years of
You may be familiar with an organization that paid such salaries, but that
doesn't mean that the people at the NSA deserve such salaries. Just because
a con-man gets the money, it doesn't mean he deserves it.
If Edward Snowden is any example the NSA people certainly don't deserve such
salaries based on ability. But even if they were so incredibly competent,
which I don't believe they are, they still wouldn't deserve such astronomical
salaries based on their value proposition to the American people. Because
they're not delivering value to the American people. As a whole I would say
they're a negative value, a detriment to society. They are engaged in an
evil and illegal activity which undermines our democracy and freedom. So
even if they were amazing competent, they're not producing something positive
for the American people and we shouldn't be paying them.
Furthermore, you seem to be completely unaware of what an average salary
is out here in the real world. I have looked at job postings for IT people
(among other things) for over 10 years on job sites like Monster, CareerBuilder,
and Indeed to name a few. And I can find postings all day long for IT people,
positions like sys admin with a list of job requirements a page long , that
only pay around $50K. I have met almost nobody in IT that makes a six-figure
>And this whole EPICSHELTER thing - really?
I hope you're directing these comments to A2. I didn't bring up EpicShelter,
A2 did. It seems that you're proving the point that I already made which
is that EpicShelter, if it even exists, is not a great intellectual feat
>If the original poster is merely looking at a job title... something
they should understand is that
No I'm not merely looking at job titles. You're mistaken there. I'm considering
what has been reported to be Snowden job duties.
>And honestly, if you think someone ignorant can pass a CEH, I'd recommend
picking up a study guide
>and going for it. After all, the original poster couldn't be ignorant,
could they? I'm not saying that
I didn't mention the CEH, but since you bring it up I'll comment:
Are you serious A3? Do you really think the CEH certification is that big
an accomplishment? Coincidentally I have picked up a CEH study guide and
read one of those 2 inch thick books on Certified Ethical Hacking and also
took a hacking course for my own interest. I will admit that yes it is certainly
a lot of material to memorize, especially if you need to recite and perform
it on a timed exam. But still it is primarily just memorization. For science
and engineering students at a good school like MIT, Cal Tech, or Stanford
(and a whole host of other schools to be fair) they would probably find the
material on the CEH exam to be freshman level material or perhaps even senior
level high school material. I'm sure the CEH certification is a great career
booster for an IT person, but it's no great feat of intellect. The mental
difficulty of the CEH material doesn't even begin to come close to the challenge
of say manipulating linear hilbert spaces to solve schrodinger wave equations
or solving singular sturm-liouville equations. Just ask any masters or phd
level scientist or engineer about the math and physics they had to take and
you'll find that what I just mentioned is only a drop in the bucket for them.
While you're at it you may also find that a surprisingly large number of
those bright folks are unemployed, surviving on post-doc appointments that
pay a below-average-wage, or working in unrelated fields for an average wage.
So, no I don't think these evil parasites at the NSA deserve six-figure salaries.
Also, I have seen no evidence that Snowden actually passed the CEH exam.
If he wants to publish evidence of that it would certainly be welcome and
informative. There seems to be a lot of uncertainty as to what Edward Snowden's
actual educational credentials are. A number of third parties have reported
that they can't verify some of his claimed education. Since I don't have
any reliable information regarding that I prefer not to join that debate.
>...Snowden is a genius, but it's pretty clear that the original poster
is out of their depth when it comes to
>discussing technical matters and the state of the IT industry, whether
it's supporting the Intelligence
>community or not.
Well, it looks like my understanding of technical matters greatly exceeds
yours. I'd say when it comes to discussing technical matters, A3 is out of
his depth about the time he wakes up in the morning.
10 January 2015. A3 sends:
I saw the article regarding Snowden's "outlandish" salary.
$170k (realize, that's only $85/hr) may seem outlandish to those who aren't
familiar with the buckets of money thrown at good IT (specifically security)
talent anymore. I'm familiar with an organization that used to routinely
throw 6 figure salaries at completely untested developers fresh out of school
(or off the boat) and a cool quarter mil/yr for someone with 3-5 years of
As a 20+ year IT professional, I've taken a good look at the CEH credential
in the past, as well as the CISSP. CISSP is the "gold standard" in the industry,
CEH seems to have "little brother syndrome". Anyone who can snag either of
these is pretty much guaranteed a 6 figure a year income, period.
And this whole EPICSHELTER thing - really? Let's think for a minute about
what kind of data the NSA is going to have located in international offices
that they wouldn't want to lose. Intercepts would be the bulk of it and they
would all get thrown back to a central location/database in order to get
processed. Would anyone realistically think that there's more going on in
those international locations? What with the data centers that are getting
built as well as the rise of "cloud computing" (although, it makes my teeth
hurt to even type the term), there's absolutely no reason to actually move
data from one location to another in any enterprise anymore. If you've got
an operational data center and a device that can connect to it, you can operate,
But, back to EPICSHELTER - advanced technology? Like what or to whom? A quick
search shows nothing, but consider the push to use/modify COTS products and
the NSA's penchant for Open Source. What are the likely options that run
this backup strategy and advanced technology? DoubleTake? Backup Exec?
Microsoft's DFS? Bacula? AMANDA? An Amazon solution? One of the snapshot
appliance solutions? Does it make sense for them to build a seriously hardcore
custom implementation of anything to back up data which may not even be there
in the first place? Throwing money down a rat hole. Second thing to consider,
why spend the money on a custom solution that requires hours/weeks/eons of
training for a newbie to pick up and run with when a commercial grade product
with commercial support is available? Doesn't make a lick of sense, but it
might to the NSA.
If the original poster is merely looking at a job title... something they
should understand is that job titles don't mean a hill of beans in this industry.
I've met a "VP of Network Engineering" before that couldn't figure out where
the power switch was on a Cisco switch - but then I've met a "Technical Support
Staff" that designed architectures that would make DaVinci smile.
And honestly, if you think someone ignorant can pass a CEH, I'd recommend
picking up a study guide and going for it. After all, the original poster
couldn't be ignorant, could they? I'm not saying that Snowden is a genius,
but it's pretty clear that the original poster is out of their depth when
it comes to discussing technical matters and the state of the IT industry,
whether it's supporting the Intelligence community or not.
6 January 2015. A2 sends:
I was reading the latest article, and I have spotted a factual error: "He
hasn't designed any hardware, written any commercial-grade software, developed
any unique algorithms or integrated complex systems on his own"
"A" may be unaware of the Vanity Fair article showing that Snowden did indeed
design and integrate complex systems.
"In Japan, Snowden worked at the Yokota Air Base, outside Tokyo, where he
instructed top officials and military officers on how to defend their networks
from Chinese hackers. There he also designed a highly sophisticated data
backup system called EPICSHELTER. It used an advanced technology to place
a shield around every N.S.A. site in the world, ensuring that the N.S.A.
would be able to recover information from any of its locations, even if that
site were completely destroyed in the event of war or another calamity."
5 January 2015
Snowden's and NSA's High Salaries for Silence?
One aspect of the Snowden story that hasn't received much attention is the
outrageous salary that Edward Snowden was receiving. I find that as equally
disturbing as the numerous illegal and serious violations of privacy committed
by the NSA.
Edward Snowden was reported to be making $170,000 per year when he defected.
Considering that his education was a handful of computer science classes
from a community college and perhaps several government classes where he
was spoonfed information, he seems far less qualified than a lot of people
in the IT field, many of whom are unemployed or making an average salary.
Contrary to some reports, I see no evidence that Edward Snowden is a genius.
He hasn't designed any hardware, written any commercial-grade software, developed
any unique algorithms or integrated complex systems on his own. He appears
to have been just a low-level support guy earning 3 or 4 times the salary
paid to other IT professionals, some of whom have advanced degrees, multiple
certifications and decades of experience and additional education.
Now, if Edward Snowden was getting paid such an enormous salary, it seems
reasonable to assume that there are many other people in the intelligence
community getting paid such enormous salaries too. So why is such a huge
sum of money being paid to these people who are violating our privacy and
breaking the law with impunity, arrogance and such disdain for the rights
of the average American they're supposed to be serving? Are they getting
paid astronomical sums of money to keep their mouths shut and not report
the outrageous violations of law committed by their bosses and their peers?
That's the only reason I can see for the unbelievable sums of money thrown
at employees like Edward Snowden, who appears relatively ignorant and unqualifed
compared to the average technician or sys admin making $45,000 per year.
It seems that the NSA breaks the law and then keeps everybody quiet by rewarding
them with vast sums of our money.
This is the second outrageous aspect of the entire NSA mass surveillance
story which hasn't been adequately addressed. An overhaul of the overly generous
salaries paid to under-qualified personnel at the NSA is long overdue. There
shouldn't be anyone at the NSA making a six-figure salary. Congress should
have corrected that mistake the first week after Snowden defected.