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BlueWolf's Howl

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January 31, 2003

Boil That Dust Speck!

Breaking News: "Braindump" Site Owner Sentenced

1/31/2003 -- Robert Keppel, the first "braindump" site owner to be criminally convicted for selling IT certification exam questions, was sentenced this morning in federal court to 12 months and 1 day in prison and ordered to pay $500,000 in restitution to Microsoft.


To Microsoft? Okay...so they're the ones with the "intellectual property" rights. But that's not the victim in this crime.

The victims are many. Each one of us who has honestly studied for an exam is a victim. And it's not just about cheating. It's not just that we had to work harder for the same credential. It's about the money. It's about jobs. And it's about the lack of prestige for a hard-earned credential.

There are many System Admins who have lots of hands-on experience. We work with the software and solve some of the most complex configuration problems. Then we go home and study for a SERIES of exams. It takes a lot of work and a huge effort. But we do it. Because we want those letters at the end of our name that should say we know what we're doing. That's what it should mean.

Today it means nothing.

In the boom of the "dot com" madness, jobs were plentiful and managers were throwing money at anyone with MCSE after their name. Many maggots were attracted to the smell of mad cash and they swarmed into the IT industry. But they had no experience and no credentials. Along comes a "braindump" shortcut. They jumped on the bandwagon. They got "certified."

Then came the actual performance of job duties. When the MCSE was new, managers could use the credential to identify those who were able to perform the job competently. Sure, they weren't all experts. But they knew something - even if it was only a basic level of understanding. As "braindump MCSEs" filled positions, management quickly found that those little letters were no guarantee of even the most basic/crucial level of competence.

Down went the salary levels for MCSE jobs.

And now the job crunch. There are many good admins who are STILL out of work. Luckily, I'm not one of them. I'm merely underemployed. Yet, the braindumpers who cheated their way into a job are probably still taking up a job somewhere... pretending (or hoping) that they know what they're doing. And why do they still have jobs? Because the managers still think that their level of competence is "as good as it gets."

It will take a long time to recover from the damage of this man (and the site participants).

And to make matters worse... Unix/Linux admins have always known about the braindumps. They think that's how ALL MCSEs get their certification. I've heard a number of Unix admins claim that the tests are easy. They could pass them (as they conjure up images of braindump sites and braindump admins) without very much effort. I've even heard a Unix guy claim "now any secretary could run a Windows 2000 network." [Apparently he didn't hear of Active Directory...]

It kills our credibility - with management and with our "peers" in the computer industry. And it hurts OUR bottom dollar. The more credible and valued the certification - the better pay for those who hold it.

Microsoft has been claiming with the new Win2000 MCSE, they're "raising the bar" for certification. A "harder" test is not what's needed. What's needed is stronger sentencing and elimination of shortcuts for unqualified personnel.

Microsoft finally took a strong step in the right direction when they reported his site to the FBI. It's not just a civil matter. It's criminal. And I'm glad to see it finally prosecuted in this manner.

Posted by BlueWolf on January 31, 2003 11:44 PM