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BOFH: Automated attendant abuse

'I'm sorry, that serial number is not recognised'

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Application security programs and practises

Episode 4 "Uh... " the Boss says, sneaking into Mission Control "...there's been a complaint."

"A complaint?" I respond.

"It may not be about you. It's about a phone call that came from your phone."

"Really, how can you be sure?"

"I called our telecommunications helpdesk who dialled in and looked up the call - and it came from this office."

"So it could have come from anyone with access to this office?"

"I suppose so. How many people is that?"

"Three, plus the modem on my desktop machine. So that means it was myself, my assistant or you."

"Okay, well I'm sure that I can account for my movem..."

"And getting back to the complaint..." I interrupt, before the Boss can present his alibi complete with witness statements from members of the local trainspotters' guild.

"Yes. Apparently you..."

"Or someone using his phone..." the PFY adds tactfully.

"Yes, ...has been harassing the automated attendant of one of our suppliers."

"Sorry?" the PFY and I say in unison.

"Someone's harassing the automated attendant at one of our suppliers," the Boss repeats.

"So what you're saying..." the PFY says slowly, "...is that someone's harassing... a machine?"

"Yes."

"And you realise the pointlessness in harassing something infinitely impatient?"

"No, they're harassing it in a different way."

"Wait a minute. Who complained about this - the machine?"

"Don't be ridiculous, one of their engineers was looking into the unavailability of their attendant and found that someone had been abusing it."

"So first there was harassment then some abuse?"

"I... Look, regardless of what it was, they'd like it investigated!"

"Okay so first things first, what was being abused?"

"Their fault reporting mechanism, one of those IVF things."

"I think you mean IVR," the PFY corrects kindly.

"Oh. Right, well anyway, it was the hardware fault system that was being abused."

"Ok," I say, entering the conversation. "Why don't we just ring the system and make sure it's not a fault at their end appearing like abuse. We'll pretend we have a faulty hard drive like... this one - which we had this morning."

"Excellent," the Boss responds.

. . . >beep< >beep< >brrrrrrrrrrrr brrrrrrrrrrrr<

"Welcome to the Platinum Class twenty four hour Support Line. To log a Software Support call, press 1, To log a hardware support call, press 2."

"Press 2," the Boss says.

>beep<

"Thank you. For desktop support press 1, for server support press 2, for storage support press 3, or for new maintenance contracts, press 4."

"Press 2," the Boss urges. "It is off a server isn't it?"

"Yes," I respond. "But is it a server problem or a storage problem?"

"I.... Press 2 and see."

>beep<

"Thank you. Please enter the thirteen digit serial number of the faulty item."

>thirteen beeps later<

"I'm sorry, that serial number is not recognised, please re-enter the number."

"Type it in again," the Boss says.

"I got it right the first time," I reply testily.

"Well go back a level and try the Storage option."

"There's no back-a-level option"

"Press Hash."

"I'm sorry, that serial number is not recognised, please re-enter the number."

"Hash just repeats the message," the Boss blurts. "Press Star."

>beep<

"Thank you, your call has been logged."

"There!" the boss says. "Done!"

"Yes, these intuitive IVR systems are great aren't they?" the PFY adds sarcastically.

"What do you mean?"

"They've got no information - no serial number, no contact name, no job information."

"They'll call back for that."

"Yuh-huh," the PFY blurts.

"Alright, call them again."

"Welcome to the Platinum Class twenty four hour Support Line..."

. . .

"Thank you. For desktop support press 1, for server support press 2, for storage support press 3..."

"Press 3!" the Boss says.

>beep<

"Thank you, please enter your seven digit support contract number."

"Isn't it a serial number?" the Boss asks.

"That was the server option, this is storage," the PFY explains. "You never use the same key twice."

"It's ok," I say, pressing in some digits. "I've got the number written down."

"Thank you. Please enter the thirteen digit serial number of the faulty item."

>thirteen beeps later<

"I'm sorry, that serial number is not recognised, please re-enter the number."

"Press 0," the Boss gasps.

>beep<

"Nothing's happening..." the PFY says.

"Maybe it thinks it's a serial number, press the Hash."

>beep<

"Still nothing," the PFY adds.

"Hang up and call again!" the Boss snaps angrily.

. . . Three calls later . . .

"THIS time!" the Boss says, with just a tinge of hysteria in his voice.

"Welcome to the Platinum Class twenty four hour Support Line..."

. . .

"Thank you. For desktop support press 1, for server support press 2, for storage support press 3..."

"PRESS 0!" the Boss shouts.

>beep<

>brrrrrrrr< >brrrrrrrr<

"It's ringing!!!" the Boss chirps happily. "Finally. See, you've just got to know how to use these things"

"Yes," I reply. "Say, did you ever watch the last episode of Sapphire and Steel where they're stuck in a time loop forever and ever?"

"Ay? What's that got to do with anyth..."

"Welcome to the Platinum Class...."

"THE... BASTARDS!" the Boss screams, before making a strange noise and staring off into space vacantly.

"And do what we do now," the PFY says, helping the Boss to the chair beside the comfy strap-around jacket, "is fire up the old desktop modem on demon dial with random IVR entry enabled. And we let it run for a couple of hours."

"Will it... get an answer?" the Boss whimpers.

"No, they've only got one engineer - and he just looks after their IVR system."

"I..." the boss burbles, going vacant again.

"But don't worry, when he calls you back to complain again, you can be the one to tell him to log his fault with our IT complaints line. Our IVR complaints line. It's 10 levels deep, 12 options per level and recursive. It's so convoluted I think I saw Amelia Earheart in there. And, more importantly, it uses caller ID to ring back if you don't complete the job log..."

"Ah..." the Boss sighs dreamily, wandering back to his office .

It's the least we can do... ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

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