BOFH: Feral access points

Wild, untamed...

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Episode 10 "What's he doing?" the Boss whispers, noticing the PFY's absence from and disinterest in the conversation he and I have been having about the shameful nature of internet porn sites these days. Put another way, the boss has been gently probing [oooh errr] for a list of potential spank sites while implying that he's in some way concerned about the moral condition of the workplace..

"He's...oh...looking for feral access points by the look of it," I say, glancing over the PFY's shoulder.

"Feral access points?"

"Wireless access points..." I explain.

"I see - but 'feral'?"

"Yes," the PFY says without looking around. "Like feral cats. Wireless Access points with no identified owners. Wild, untamed."

"I... see. And what do you do when you find one?"

"What, a feral cat?" the PFY asks. "You shoot them!"

"No, I mean a.. feral.. access point"

"Oh, the same thing," the PFY responds.

"So... you're suggesting that you shoot people's access points?"

"No, no, I'm suggesting we shoot their cats!"


"Obviously it'd take a couple of times before the message gets through, but believe me those access points will disappear like a shot (so to speak) once word gets out!"

"You can't be serious!"

"Of course he's not," I say, calming the Boss while shuffling the PFY's urban hunting magazine under some paper on his desk. "No, his plan is to identify the access points which are either illegally installed or improperly configured and take the appropriate steps."

"What steps would they be?"

"The ones in the stairwell between the Beancounters offices and the lunchroom - after darkening the stairwell of course," the PFY says. "An eight foot fall into a concrete stairwell tends to reinforce the idea of asking before installing ad-hoc networking kit!"


"Again, a little joke," I say, nudging the masonry drill a little further under the PFY's desk. "No, we generally find that a quiet chat outlining the importance of network security is all that's required. Once we've shown them how simple it is to break into our network via their access point, explained the delicate nature of some of the data on our network..."

"...hit them repeatedly with a potato in a sock..." the PFY adds.


"Forgive my assistant's levity!" I counter making sure the aforementioned sock is still behind the masonry drill. "He's just wanting to ensure our network is safe!"

"But how can you really be sure that it's safe?" the Boss asks.

Before the PFY can demonstrate this on a Dustin Hoffman-like user with the aid of some dentistry tools, I decide to move the boss on with a Management Level Non-Maskable Interrupt.

"Is it true that they're serving extra large Onion Bhajis on the menu for lunch today?"

"I..." the Boss says, "...don't know, but I might just read up a bit more on this security thing..."

"Yes, good idea," I say while shielding my ears from the sonic boom as the Boss rushes to the cafeteria...


"So," I say to the PFY a couple of minutes later. "Any hits?"

"None," the PFY says. "Well, not after yesterday anyway. The one I did find was being used by the people in the next building to browse porn."

"What, not www.nastynunsinleather.com again?"

"Nah, just yahoo photos," the PFY chuckles.

"Did someone say porn?" the Boss asks, appearing out of nowhere with a large bag of Bhajis, his MLNMI overruled by the Hardware Level Reset of the word 'porn'

"He was just saying that there's no Rogue Access Points..."

"Rogue? I thought you said Feral?"

"It's the same thing, except that one has the Amulet of Yendor," the PFY explains - in a geek joke that passes the Boss by like a salad bar.

"I...So we're secure then?"

"Security is a journey, not a destination" the PFY says, repeating the well worn adage.

"Uh...So they did have bhajis?" I interrupt, getting an NMI of my own from the smell.

"And pakoras!"

"We'd better get some before it's too late!" the PFY gasps.

"Too late," the Boss chuckles smugly. "I barely had time to grab a couple of bags before they were gone!"

"Sharesies?" the PFY wheedles.

"I..." the Boss mumbles, in the same tone of voice reserved for answering the 'spare change for a cup of tea?' request..."don't think so. Anyway, are you saying we're not secure?"

"Wha? Oh, yyyNO, no, we're not secure. They're everywhere," the PFY responds, staring intently at the Boss's nose bag.

"What, access points?"

"Yes, and to avoid detection it seems some staff have started made them look like air-conditioning thermostat units and popped them in neighbouring offices."

"You mean like those!" the Boss asks, pausing mid-munch to point at our wall.

"EXACTLY like those."

"Is that one?"

"It could be!"

"But it's been there for years!"

"Yes, but it could have been replaced!"

"How will you know?"

"Simple, you just take the cover off," the PFY says, unscrewing the plate "and see this bit here."

"The bit which says Caution, Mains Voltage?"


"What about it?"

"You press on this piece of copper here to and listen for a buzz from the computer."

"Aren't you going to press it?" the Boss asks.

Around now I'm wondering just how much the PFY wants those bhajis. Sure, he has insulated shoes, but can they be trusted...

"I tested it earlier," the PFY lies - the bastard - "and all the ones in the open plan area too. There's no other ones on the floor."

"There's one in my office!" the Boss says, right on cue.

"No there's not," the PFY says. "They're for open plan areas only."

"There's one in my office!!!"

"Well, it's possible you've got a legit one, but you'd best check it now while you've still got some bhajis left."

"Bhajis left?"

"Bandwidth left, yeah. They'll use up all your network bandwidth!!"

"Oh!" the Boss says, shuffling out quickly.


"That'll be the lunch bell," the PFY chirps. "Get 'em while they're smoking!"


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