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BOFH: A tragic accident

Workplace safety just ain't what it used to be

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Mobile application security vulnerability report

Episode 35

It's an exceptionally quiet morning at Mission Control and the PFY and I are killing time by rifling through the director's PA's drawers to see if she left anything good behind when she departed the company.

"Ah... excuse me?" a voice asks haltingly from behind the partition.

"Yep?" the PFY asks, always willing to help out.

"I'm looking for the manager of systems and networks?"

"Ah, well, unfortunately he's gone."

"Do you know when he'll be back?"

"He'll never be back - he's gone," the PFY responds.

"What my assistant is trying to say is that he has left the company following a workplace accident," I add.

"Really? What happened?"

"He unfortunately fell into the path of an oncoming cab."

"What?! When was this?"

"Last Friday lunchtime," the PFY says, gazing into the distance thoughtfully. "I remember because it was the deadline he'd given us to install some patches on our system. It didn't happen and he came to the pub to find out why and get us back onto the job. On exiting the pub I observed a cab, black in colour, coming down the street and that my manager appeared not to have noticed it. I reached out to grab his jacket just as he tripped into the path of the vehicle."

"Really? Was he OK?"

"A few bumps and bruises, a loss of accurate memory of events preceding the event, but apart from that he's ok – but he's decided to move on."

"I... see," the bloke says slowly. "Perhaps then I could speak with his immediate superior?"

"And there's a funny thing," I say. "The IT director, returning to the office that same afternoon, heard of the boss' misfortune and grasped the wrong end of the stick and presumed that the injury may not have been accidental in nature. He immediately sought me out in the stairwell on the floor above preparing to move a trolleyload of boxes of old lineflow paper. As he entered the stairwell below me I realised that (a) I hadn't needed to bring the paper up to that floor to dispose of it in the first place and (b) the lift would be a better way to get it to the basement. In executing a 180 degree turn one of the boxes of paper slipped from the top of the trolley and fell onto the director."

"Oh. How about your helpdesk supervisor?"

"Again, a workplace tragedy. He'd asked us to ensure that all our calls were passed through the helpdesk system so that they could be logged in his database - and in order to do this had our DDI numbers redirected by a telco contractor without our knowledge. My assistant here went to speak to him about how we could facilitate the return of the DDI numbers and accidentally knocked a desk lamp into the fish tank at the exact moment that he happened to be cleaning it..."

"Someone - anyone - FROM the helpdesk?"

"Gone also - but nothing to do with us. They're all on sick leave after ordering a dodgy pizza from the place across town that has a web ordering service and free delivery. Apparently there was some glitch in the webform which resulted in the words 'powdered glass' being entered into the freeform text box under 'additional toppings'. Ordinarily this would have not been a problem as they don't have this stuff on hand in the store except that the exceptionally customer-focused delivery person stopped off on the way and added it."

"That's terrible!"

"I know," the PFY says. "That someone with the dedication to go the extra mile for the customer is treated so shabbily. As luck would have it though, once we heard of his availability we were able to offer him a position in our helpdesk starting next week. And wouldn't you know it – he's just finished a degree in IT!'

"I... see. So is there anyone I can talk to? Your security consultant?"

"Cycling accident."

"Business analysts?"

"They got trapped in a lift over a bank holiday weekend with no water supply. Not pretty, as I'm sure you can imagine. Of course they're both nuttier than monkey crap now and have an extended stay in the dribbling academy..."

...a few minutes later...

"So there's no one?"

"Just us," the PFY says.

"Sigh. Okay, well I'm here to audit the IT portion of your business process for the company's annual business stability rating."

"Which means?"

"Well I'll just need to verify that you're following best practice in change controls, security management, access control, logging, and suchlike. So I'll need to see all supporting documents so that I can check them for completeness."

"Oh right," the PFY gasps cheerfully, having noted my surreptitious nod. "We keep them in a fireproof safe."

"Excellent – if you could just show me to them..."

"Sure, sure, they're upstairs – on the roof."

"The roof?!"

"Yeah they wanted to bolt the safe to some structural element of the building and the only accessible pieces are where the roof meets the outside walls of the building..."

...Two minutes later...

"There's been a terrible accident!" the PFY gasps, staggering into Mission Control.

"Yes, I thought there might be..." I say, kicking the auditor's briefcase under the PFY's desk to join the others we've collected over the years.

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