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BOFH: Taking the fight to the beancounters

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Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Episode 11

BOFH 2004: Episode 11

"Didn't we just DO an inventory?" the PFY asks, looking through the pages of items which we're going to have to find and account for.

"Yes, but that was an internal inventory - for the IT Department. This one's for the Beancounters."

"And the difference is?"

"Our internal inventory simply consists of us ticking off items as we locate them. The Beancounter inventory requires us to enter the serial number of the piece of kit with the supplied inventory number and description."

"Why?"

"To reduce the chance of 'shrinkage'. See, they check the serial number we supply against the one in their database - if they don't match, they know we've made it up and the piece of kit cannot be found."

"And?"

"And then they recommend a full and complete audit, A-Z of our equipment, complete with lazy beancounter overseer to sight every item and make sure it's legit."

"Ah."

"So, I suppose we'd better get down to it. Item 1. Alpha box, Inventory number 101211."

"We haven't got an Alpha box."

"No, I pushed it into the dumpster about 18 months ago during a cleanout, but couldn't be stuffed filling out an asset disposal form. So we'll mark that down as missing."

"Won't that mean we'll have to have the A-Z audit."

"Oh no. You need your 'missing' items. They'll expect something to be missing, and what they'll do is look at the unit's book value - which will be zero after all these years - and decide not to pursue it."

"Ah, right."

"Next. Anamorphous Solar Panels, two."

"On the roof of my flat."

"Missing."

"But we only bought them last year - they'll still have a book value!"

"Indeed. And the beancounter will think - the lazy bastards couldn't be bothered getting up onto the roof. Next Dell Server, 6600, four. Inventory numbers 330765, 330766, 334189 and 334190."

"Computer Room," the PFY says . . . . "First one: HZT881S."

"That's the service tag. They'll want the serial number, as that'll be what's in their database."

"Oh. 39170708416."

"Slower,"

"391 ... 707 ... 084 ... 16"

"39170708416, Right. Next one?"

"391..."

. . . and so it goes, box by box . . .

"Tape Drives, six, First Inventory Number 288907."

"Wow!"

"What?"

"Look at the serial number on that baby!"

"That's not the serial number, that's a dump of it's BIOS firmware!" I blurt hopefully." I'm not writing that down! What is that, 70 characters?"

"...sixty... three," the PFY says, gazing intently at the number concerned "I think.. I might have lost my place there."

"Ok, DAMAGED."

"It's not…"

>CRASH!<

"Yes it is."

"You can't break them all!"

"True, we'll have to use the old list."

"The old list?!?"

"Yeah, the photocopy of the list we did last time."

"Last time?"

"A couple of years ago."

"If we've got a list, why are we doing this?!"

"Just establishing an alibi," I respond.

"?"

"The Boss has seen us in the computer room all morning, so when we're away all afternoon he'll think we're inventorising the kit in the comms rooms, etc., instead of at the pub."

"Ah!"

"So what do we do about the stuff we've bought since the 'old list'?"

"We just change the entries in the beancounter's database to be whatever number we think up at the pub this afternoon."

. . . two days later . . .

"Just a couple of things," the beancounter auditor chirps, reading down his clipboard. "Solar Panels, two - you say they're missing."

"Yes," I reply. "We turned the place over looking for them. Probably stolen."

"Did you check the roof?"

"The roof?"

"Yes, where solar panels normally live."

"Oh yes, you're right. That completely slipped my mind!"

"Next, these tape drives - you list their serial numbers as... 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and Damaged."

"Is that what it says on the sheet?" the PFY asks.

"Yes."

"It must be the case then - we copied it off the units."

"But no-one would use a single digit serial number!"

"They might if they only made 10 of them," I point out. "Anyway, don't you guys keep records of serial numbers from the store when the kit arrives?"

"Yes."

"And?"

"Well the database has single digits too, but there must be some mistake."

"So you're complaining that our records match yours?!!!!"

"I.... Well that's not the point. I mean look at this! >shuffle< UPS, Standalone. Serial Number: K-N-O-B,F-A-C-E."

"Yes?"

"It spells KNOBFACE!"

"It doesn't spell anything!" I cry. "It's a serial code. SERIAL. The UPS before it was K-N-O-B-F-A-C-D, the one after it was K-N-O-B-F-A-C-F. It's just random. We were just lucky."

"And I suppose... The UPS 20KVA really has a serial number of ALLBEANCOUNTERSARETOSSERS."

"That's what's on the machine!" the PFY replies.

"And the one before it was ALLBEANCOUNTERSARETOSSERR, and the one after it was ALLBEANCOUNTERSARETOSSERT?"

"Probably," I say, "If it's serial. Maybe the makers just didn't like beancounters?"

"I want to bloody see it!"

"It's in a secure area, I'm afraid, we can't possibly allow it."

"We'll see about that!" he snaps, grabbing my desk phone and punching out some numbers.

. . .

A couple of minutes later the Boss trundles in.

"I've just been talking to the Head of Accounting," he says officiously, "and this man here is to audit ALL equipment with any query against it. You are to provide him with COMPLETE access to sight this equipment so that he can verify it's serial and inventory numbers."

"I see," I respond. "Fair enough. What's first on the list?"

"Solar panels!" he snaps.

. . .

"... all a terrible accident," I say to the Boss as the ambulance pulls away. "He bent over to read the serial number and slipped. Six floors into the recycling bin!"

"We're very lucky all the cardboard was in there to break his fall," the Boss blurts.

"If you say so."

"He says you pushed him."

"That's just the shock talking!"

"He said there were no solar panels!"

"Ridiculous! He's had a bump to the head."

"I tend to believe him."

"You take his word against one of your employees! I'll take you up and show you if you like!"

The Boss eyes the bin with the newly "compacted" cardboard briefly.

"No, I think that will be OK…"

"What about you?" I say, to the Head of Accounting.

"I... ah.. think everything is in order."

"Because while I was up on the roof I found some more of the missing kit, and would you believe it, the serial numbers of all those are, coincidentally 'ALLBEANCOUNTERSARETOSSERS' too. I mean, what a coincidence. Would you like to check?"

"No, no, I'm sure you're right."

"Right, well, I'll have someone send the paperwork up to you this afternoon then?" ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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