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Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

Episode 14 So it turns out that one of the company's financial traders was spending a little too much time (i.e. 100 per cent) playing minesweeper and not enough time (0 per cent) taking up some important share options that the company was counting on - resulting in a teensy bit of financial loss. Nothing that the company couldn't recover from now that they've outsourced the entire trading department of course, but as a result there's been a little bit of discussion at upper levels about what people should and shouldn't be doing during their working day and a hastily crafted memo has been distributed threatening instant dismissal for any staff member - no matter who - caught playing games.

To complete the knee-jerk reaction, the Head of IT's been called in to assure the board that we'll leave no stone unturned in the search for an early scapegoat as an example to ensure staff compliance...

As there's a high probability that someone will get upset the Head's passing the job down the chain - me being next in line....

"A.... uh.. word if I may," he smarms, sidling into Mission Control.

"Mmmmm?"

"I'd like you to find out who in the office plays games and how much time they spend doing it."

"Are there games on the computer?!" the PFY asks, failing miserably in his attempt to sound sincere.

"What are you after precisely?" I ask, using the PFY's interruption to hide Solitaire.

"There's been a bit of a stink from the top floor," the Head lies. "Apparently someone made a suggestion that we could increase productivity by up to 50 per cent by removing games from the desktops of our users. I'd already mentioned this to your previous manager before the whole issue exploded but he suggested that he didn't think he'd have much joy in getting you to action this for him. But now that you're in his role... perhaps you'd have more success in..."

"Convincing myself that we should track down game players to increase company productivity?"

"Yes."

"It's ridiculous!" the PFY states, full of bravado now his gaming keypad is out of sight.

"Yeah," I add. "You'd only get about 15 per cent from games."

"Really?"

"Sure. You'd pick up another 15 per cent from blocking porn, maybe 10 per cent blocking internet email services, another 10-15 from online auction sites, 10 per cent from banking and other personal finance and 15 or so from online newspaper and movie preview sites."

"I… How much time does that work out to?"

"About 75-80 per cent."

"I hardly think it's that bad! Nothing would get done!"

"I beg to differ. When that roading crew severed our internet fibre the place was like a ghost town!"

"And the pub across the road ran out of lager," the PFY adds.

"Ah, I.. err.. I'd still like to know who's running games."

"Well, I suppose we could run some remote desktop stats, see what's running and what percentage they're running."

"Excellent."

. . .

"Smooth Boss-Keying," the PFY says once the Head of IT has departed.

"Actually a KVM switch. Press F12 and it switches to or from my Linux box."

"Useful," the PFY nods.

"Unless I've been perusing a PHO-TO-GRAPHIC site on the Linux machine and forgotten to exit the browser."

"Ah!" the PFY says. "I just configure my browser's home page to the OS2 discussion blog site," the PFY counters.

"Yeah, I think I'd rather be caught with the porn," I sigh.

... Later that day ...

"So have you found the game players yet?" the Head asks, looking a little bit harassed.

"Not really - we haven't connected to people's desktops remotely yet because it might be construed by some to be some sort of invasion of privacy."

"Nonsense! They're company machines and the company has access to the data on them. Anyway private data shouldn't be on home machines, not work ones!"

"So we've got your permission to connect to people's machines?"

"Certainly! And can you put a rush on it - I've got a meeting in half an hour to show a few of the Directors."

"Show them what?"

"The... ah.. statistics."

"Oh right," I say dubiously. "You want the statistics, not a list of game players for you and the Directors to creep up on till you find one poor bastard bending the rules?"

"It's not like they weren't warned! We have to be seen to be fair and determined, no exceptions."

"They won't do it," the PFY says. "They're all P&V."

"P&V?"

"Piss and Vinegar," I explain.

"Like the crisps," the PFY adds. "They won't do anything."

"I... u.. They will!" the Head of IT says. "It's company policy now!"

"So if the list happened to have my assistant's name on it you'd have no hesitation in firing him?"

"What?!" the PFY gasps.

"If he were caught playing games it would be out of my hands," the Head sighs.

"So you're basically making us company axe men?"

"Oh for Pete's sake, it's only one person. There must be someone in the department you don't like who plays games!"

"Ok, we'll have a look."

. . .

The world of executive promotion is a funny business. Within the hour I'm a stand-in Head of IT as well as a stand-in Boss as well as a Systems admin. Course the Head of IT did claim that he didn't play games, but the game of Spider running on his desktop (uncannily similar to the one running on the PFY's screen) when the Directors arrived was fairly damning. The porn they discovered when the boss closed that was pretty much the last nail in the coffin. They didn't even make it to the OS2 blog…

Course, explaining the game of Wolfenstein Enemy Territory they'll all be running Monday week will be another matter.... It would seem that only thing that can break this upward climb would seem to be Birnam wood and a test tube baby… ®

BOFH is copyright © 1995-2005, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

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