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Application security programs and practises

Episode 13

BOFH 2001: Episode 13

It's extremely early in the morning and The PFY and I are in to perform some routine maintenance which really IS routine maintenance. Having noticed the payments application has a penchant for memory leaks which causes late delivery of contracting cheques every five weeks or so, we've decided to reboot the servers after slapping in the vendor-supplied fix.

And we've just finished the backup of the existing system - not being all that trusting - when the phone rings.

We ignore it of course - it's 6:30am and anyone in at work at this time and not at home asleep should be taken home and put to sleep, they're that sad.

The phone continues to ring on and off through the installation and reboot, and finally gives up around 7:30am.

As luck would have it - not ours mind - the user perseveres in a more traditional manner by ringing The Boss (who should be put to sleep as a matter of course), who deals with complaints in the time-honoured manner guaranteed to add value to the whole process - he passes it directly to us.

I walk upstairs and meet a new addition to the company, Carl, from the "Strategic Direction Unit". He motions me to a shiny chrome door which opens to reveal a small gymnasium with a panoramic view of the Thames. (As opposed to the staff one, if we had one, which would be si floors lower with a view - out a grate - of the side of a row of builders' skips. )

State of the art equipment in virgin condition surrounds me.

"It's all hooked up to the box over there," he gestures proudly. "You swipe yourself onto a machine, it brings up your profile, then sets the machine to the settings you use, depending on the fitness plan you choose. It's great, I can't understand why no-one has used it!!!"

"MMmmm" I agree, faking disbelief. "And your computing problem is?" I ask.

"This" he murmurs, tapping a treadmill.

"And how can I help you with that?"

"Well, I'd like you to fix it."

"It's a treadmill, not a computer..."

"But it's got a computer in it. And it's connected to one!"

"No, it's got a microprocessor in it - You may as well ask me to fix your cellphone!"

"Actually, my cellphone has a reception problem too! Do you fix them?"

"As a matter of fact I do. Let's have a look."

He passes the phone over and I chuck it in the bin.

"Right, time to use your phone insurance to get a new one."

"I.... Uh.. ... I see... Um, can you actually FIX the treadmill though?"

"OF COURSE I can! Give us a hand getting it over to the window and I'll get right onto it!"

"Are you proposing to throw it off the balcony?!"

"Of course not!"

"Good."

"No, it FELL off the balcony when you moved it to.. sweep up the place a bit"

"I don't sweep! I'm an executive!"

"Yes. It's funny, but I don't seem to recognise you.."

"I started on Monday. And just yesterday I discovered this gym, completely unused!!!" he responds keenly.

"Well, that'd be because of the Management fitness programme.

"Oh, they have a programme?"

"Puleeese! Have you seen the rest of upper management?" I ask. "As a rule they stop for a rest between floors in the LIFT!"

"Yes, I'd noticed. But as it happens, I've sent a memo to the board only yesterday asking them to sponsor gym introduction classes for management - Healthy Mind, Healthy Body - that sort of thing."

"Yes, you're right to start with the body I suppose. Thin end of the wedge.."

Sigh.

After remedying the problem (plugging the machine in and waiting for the self test), I take my leave. As "luck" would have it again, The Boss is waiting for me when I return.

"All sorted out" he asks nervously.

"Yeah, machine wasn't plugged in. Going like a charm now. All hooked up"

"Oh, you plugged it back in then? You wouldn't like to unplug it again would you?" he asks, a mild trace of hysteria present in his voice.

"Unplug it?"

"Yes, just that we're not all that keen on the exercise thing," he pants, puffing from the strain of even thinking about the possibility.

"WE'RE?"

"Me and the rest of the IT Management Team. And Accounts too, I hear.."

"I see. He'll just plug it back in tho.."

"Perhaps you could.. ah.. break.. it?"

"I'm sensing some corporate disloyalty here," I say, in a shocked and disappointed way. "If I didn't know better I'd think you didn't have the company's best interests at heart!"

"Of course we do. What would it take to prove that this is a bad thing for the company?"

"Fifty Quid should convince me.."

"Each.." The PFY adds.

"Manager.." I add, really getting into the swing of things and realising that none of them wants to be the one to wimp out...

"YOU WANT 50 QUID EACH, PER MANAGER!!!"

"No, you're probably right, having senior representation in next year's London Marathon is important.."

"I'll make some calls."

Two hours and two thick brown envelopes later, the requested "repairs" are made.

"And you're sure I won't have to actually

USE

the equipment?" The Boss gasps, wheezing from the effort of trying on his ill-fitting new workout gear which shows so much crack it's probably got a street value..

"Nope, all you have to do is show up..."

The next day I'm called up early (again) to look at the exercise machines.

"Well," I respond, to the investigating officers questions while looking at the fitness computer, "it seems the treadmill was executing a standard running profile of nine kilometres an hour then changed to a sprint profile, of 50 kilometres an hour for some reason, hurling him out the window and into the builder's skip, into which I'd previously dumped all our old computing boxes - which was VERY lucky."

"Lucky?" the officer asks. "He broke both arms, an ankle and has a minor concussion!!"

"Nothing too serious then," The Boss comments.

The rest is history. With an excuse to mistrust the equipmen,t the Management team is out of there like a shot, leaving The PFY and me to clean up. A couple of words of advice to The PFY are sure to help.

"Ok, the exercycles were ok, but the treadmills' much heavier, so we're going to have to get a runup if we're to get it in the skip - I mean out of the way for sweeping.." ®

BOFH is copyright © 1995-2001, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.

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