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BOFH: Data wiping hell

Operation computer clean up

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Episode 37

It's early-ish morning and the Boss is stalking around the workplace on a mission. What that mission entails is anyone's guess but his stalking is purposeful, which means sooner or later he's going to end up here. The PFY and I know it's only a matter of time, but why rush into confrontation?

I quietly lock the door of Mission Control, turn the lights out and fire up a quick game of FEAR against the PFY...

Two hours later we're obliged to emerge due of the effects of the four cups of early morning coffee we downed. If we'd been thinking we'd have had a toilet installed in Mission Control ages ago, but the nearest we ever came to that was when the CEO brought his nephew's Archimedes in to have some software installed. In the PFY's defence what he installed was soft, just not exactly software...

No sooner am I back than the Boss is in Mission Control ferreting around under tables and in cupboards.

"Looking for something?" the PFY asks noticing the Boss crawling around under his desk.

"No, no, I think I've found what I'm looking for," he says.

"What's that then?" I ask.

"This machine here," he says, pointing at an ancient desktop that the PFY uses as a footrest.

"Yes."

"What's it doing?"

"It's a footrest," the PFY says.

"And what's it used for?"

"Resting my feet on?" the PFY sighs.

"And when you've finished with it, what happens to it?"

"You mean when it wears down to the ground?" I ask.

"When it's no longer fit for use, what happens to it?"

"It goes into the bin?" the PFY asks.

"AH HAH!" the Boss shouts triumphantly. "So you DON'T ensure that the hard drive is erased or destroyed?"

"It doesn't have a hard drive," the PFY says. "It's ancient."

"Oh," the Boss says, slightly deflated. "So what do you do with your old machines then?"

"We give them to schools," I lie. "...After first erasing drives with a bootable CD which kicks off an aggressive erase utility."

Truth be known we sell them to the PFY's cousin who onsells them out of a car boot after "erasing" them with the latest pirated XP install, but we could do it properly if we wanted...

"What about the rest of the company's machines?"

"Each area is responsible for their own equipment disposals," the PFY says knowingly.

"Just as I thought!" the Boss responds smugly, pulling a video tape out of his pocket and plugging it into our player.

The video turns out to be a "news" item about corporate data being recovered from old hard drives.

"Oh that," the PFY says dryly. "Has it been six months already?"

"Six months?" the Boss asks.

"Yeah," I respond. "Every six months or so on a slow news day they get a guy in a lab coat to buy a couple of machines off eBay and recover data off them and imply that it's some newly discovered threat to security."

"But it IS real risk?" the Boss asks.

"Only if you don't erase your disks properly"

"And would each area in the company be erasing their data properly?"

"They don't do anything properly..." the PFY replies.

Quicker than you can say "we should have a company policy on this" the Boss has said: "We should have a company policy on this" to a number of people.

...

"So what will happen is that everyone will ship their machines to you here," the Boss burbles. "You will erase them, then send them on for disposal."

"But..." the PFY whimpers, echoing my own sentiments. "We replace a crapload of machines every year - we'll be inundated!"

"I'm sure you'll cope," the Boss remarks dryly.

...three days later...

"What's all this?!" the Boss asks as he navigates his way through the piles of old kit blocking up Mission Control.

"It's all the replaced kit that you've said we're going to erase!"

"Can't you store it in...the tape safe room?" the Boss suggests.

"We filled that up yesterday," the PFY snaps.

"So...I...was actually coming to see if you could install Service Pack 2 on my home laptop. I would do it from home but my dialup line is so slow that..."

"You're kidding aren't you?" the PFY gasps.

"I... No"

"Here, I'll take care of this," I say to the PFY before he has a conniption, turning my attention to the Boss. "We've got no time so you'll have to do the install yourself. We're going to be spending most of the afternoon just clearing a path through to the tapes so that we can load the backup library."

"Is it...complicated?" the Boss asks.

"Nah, just boot your machine from this CD, say yes to the first question and yes when it asks you if you're sure."

"And there's no other questions?"

"Nope, it'll be off and running - takes a couple of hours."

"Excellent!" the Boss burbles, wandering off happily.

...

"So" I say to the PFY, "I seem to have accidentally mislaid that Auto-erasing boot CD of ours - where can it be?"

"No idea," the PFY adds woodenly. "And we have such a lot of machines to get through. Should we do the responsible thing and call in a contractor to do the erasure for us."

"Good idea," I respond. "You ring your cousin and I'll lock the door and fire up the FEAR server..."

...

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