Death by Enter Key

If you’re not an American you’ve probably never heard of Carlos Danger. And if you are, you probably wish you hadn’t. But his story is entertaining in a pathetic, precautionary way, so I shall briefly recount it for its, ah, deterrent value.

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As far as we know, there is no one actually named Carlos Danger. It was an oddly-timed Nome de guerre that our man of mystery adopted after already ruining his career, and just before ruining what was left of his life. And quite a life it was. He was a Congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives from New York City, elected seven times with large majorities, and his future was as bright as oncoming headlights. There was just a teensy-weensy little problem (although Carlos would probably object to that diminutive characterization).

His real name is Anthony Weiner (no, I didn’t make that up), and the problem was he kept taking pictures of his namesake and sending them to women he’d met on social media. One of the women was a Twitter follower who took offense at Weiner’s version of political transparency. And she wasn’t the only one.

After the obligatory denials, in 2011 he was forced to resign from Congress, but tried to reenter politics by running for mayor. This was New York, after all. He might have even resurrected his career, but he just couldn’t keep his finger off the “Send” key. So he decided to use the alias “Carlos Danger.” But it was too late. Weiner had become a media obsession. After a newspaper broke the story, an FBI investigation confirmed that among the women receiving his naughty pictures was a 15-year old girl. Game over. Weiner pled guilty to federal obscenity charges and will be sentenced next month. His wife filed for divorce asking for sole custody of their young son.

US Supreme Court

He lost the mayor’s race, too.

I couldn’t help wonder how often he wished he could have retrieved that very first picture, thus averting the coming disaster. There is a paradoxical finality in hitting the Enter/Send key. On the one hand, it indicates you are done with a task. But on the other—in most contexts—it means you can’t undo it.

In the interest of full disclosure, I had my own misadventure with an Enter key, although—and I hate to disappoint—it was less salacious than Mr. Weiner’s. I first started working in IT during prehistoric times. Back then disc packs were layered and removable. One of my nightly tasks on swing shift was performing backups. That involved taking the production pack and copying it to one of the backup packs. There was nothing particularly difficult about the task, I had performed it many times before, but it did require one strict adherence: You could never, ever, under any circumstances, mix up the source and target packs.

Which, I did. I put the wrong pack on the wrong spindle, typed the command, hit the unforgiving Enter key, and proceeded to write over the production pack with a three-day-old backup. Fortunately, the news media took no notice, so my humiliation remained local. Recovery, however, involved a great deal of data entry, for which my manager graciously volunteered my services.

We’ve all heard stories about broadcast email replies, where the user’s cursor drifts just beyond “Reply” to “Reply All” and a message intended for one set of eyes, suddenly appears on the screens of half the company. Or the philandering husband who sends his wife a wayward message intended for his girlfriend.

For private individuals, such ill-advised taps of the Enter key can be funny, embarrassing, and sometimes hurtful. But for companies the stakes are much higher.

Enter Key

Regulatory compliance, or the prospect of litigation may require a snapshot of files long-since altered. There is also the prospect of malicious data loss from hackers or disgruntled employees. Of course, accidental data deletion sounds more benign, but is no less problematic for that. Most everyone has experienced that dreadful moment when you realize you just erased the wrong file. The feeling intensifies if it’s a production file. Or perhaps it was the right file, but you were on the wrong server. Or maybe you were in a hurry and misspelled the file name. It happens.

It would be understandable to think that having a real-time Disaster Recovery solution would insulate a company from such mishaps. But DR is based on the principle that whatever is changed on the main system will immediately be replicated on the backup computer. So user errors, or malicious data manipulation will simply be duplicated in all locations.

A better solution requires real-time and event-based archiving, and Point-in-Time recovery, with the ability to roll forward or backward to the pivotal transaction. And, if your production system remains available while performing CPR tasks, you may be able to fix the problem before anyone realizes there was one. Carlos Danger would envy you.

Take it from a kid who mixed up the disc packs. Protect yourself; protect your data.

Don’t be a Weiner.


This article is written by Victor Rozek, who is an award-winning columnist and writes for IT Jungle The Four Hundred. #victor4maxava


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