28th > July > 2001 Archive

Hacking activity at all-time high

Hacking activity is at an all-time high, according to stats compiled by The Honeynet Project. It bases this conclusion on the number of attacks perpetrated against a network of servers, set up by the organisation specifically to collect data on hacking attempts. The intrusion detection system placed on the Honeynet's servers generated 157 alerts during May 2000 but this figure had escalated by a factor of almost nine to 1,398 alerts by February 2001. The Honeynet's firewall showed a doubling of alerts from 103 to 206 per month between May 2000 and February 2001. Much of what the project discovered chimes in with the increasing incidents of corporate Web site defacement and other hacking attacks but it also throws up some interesting insights in the techniques used by black hat hackers. "Some black hats have streamlined their scanning process to merely look for a specific service," the Honeynet Project said on a report on its work, which is available here. "If they find the service, they launch the exploit without even first determining if the system is vulnerable, or even the correct system." "This aggressive approach allows black hats to scan and exploit more systems in less time," said the report, which added the tactic of focusing on exploiting a single vulnerability is used by many s'kiddies. "These numbers indicate black hat activity has continued to grow, most likely the result of more aggressive, automated scanning tools and their growing availability." Between April and December 2000, seven default installations of Red Hat 6.2 servers were attacked within three days of connecting to the Internet. From this the people behind the project concluded that "the life expectancy of a default installation of Red Hat 6.2 server to be less then 72 hours". Scary stuff. By contrast a default Windows 98 installation with shares enabled, typical of that found in many homes, was compromised in just 24 hours. The most popular attack method used by hackers were buffer attacks associated with rpc.statd service on Intel machine and the most popular scanning tool was found to be Syn-Fin. The Honeynet Project maintained a closely monitored eight IP network linked up to the net using an ISDN connection, such as a small business might use. Within this network of honeypot machines, which are designed to lure unsuspecting hackers inside, three systems (running either Solaris Sparc, NT, Windows 98 or Red Hat Linux) were generally running at most times. The people behind the project collected and archived every attack on this network for an eleven month period, between April 2000 and February 2001 but its results were only published this week. They admit that their findings are specific to their network and that more research, especially on using data to predict attacks, is needed. The Honeynet Project reckons that enterprise users will see far more attacks than those thrown against the project's machines. "Remember, the Honeynet used to collect this information had no production systems of value, nor was it advertised to lure attackers. If your organisation has any value, or is advertised in any way, you are most likely exposed to even greater threat." ® External links Honeynet Project statistics
John Leyden, 28 Jul 2001

Packard Bell snares Toshiba marketing chief

Packard Bell has snared Toshiba marketing manager Con Mallon for its UK country manager. Mallon, who joined the manufacturer last month, has been given the job of increasing Packard Bell's notebook sales. This is a sector the company says will be a 'major focus' in the next year, and an area Mallon has oodles of experience in thanks to his three years at Toshiba. According to Mallon, Packard Bell expects notebook sales to double this year compared to last, and is gunning for them to double again the following year. Packard Bell, which started selling consumer laptops over here two years ago, will continue to sell exclusively through Dixons. It plans to launch a fresh range of notebooks in mid August concentrating on areas such as audio, and aims to net customers who are looking to replace their desktop with a notebook. "The vast majority of these shoppers will still buy another desktop, but an increasing percentage will want a notebook," said Mallon. Regarding the current tough market conditions, he said that the industry was "in the midst of a storm", but added that his latest employer was "weathering it very well in the UK". ® Related Stories Toshiba touts for Web business PCs over the Web from Toshiba
Linda Harrison, 28 Jul 2001

BOFH and the Linux Evangelist

Episode 18Episode 18 A couple of years back the chances of seeing Unix on a user's desktop machine was about as likely as seeing a Manager at the bar with his wallet open. But in recent months, thanks to the evangelism of a geeky type from R&D a number of people are converting from the Windows Dark Side to Linux. And I'm not a happy man. True, I should be happy that people are ascending the Operating System Evolutionary scale, but sadly this isn't the case. As expected, the helldesk know about as much about Unix as the Head of IT knows about dress sense - nil - which doesn't stop them from dispensing advice of course. Advice like: "No, No, no need to use the anti-relay code in your sendmail configuration.." After the massive upsurge in our through traffic, I managed to nip that in the bud with a rather heavy-handed routing modification then wandered down to have a quiet word with the helldesk person concerned. Just a friendly heart-to-heart, nothing too dramatic. Once I've dropped off their resignation form at HR (admittedly, they did think they were signing a company accident indemnity form) I pop back down to the office to clean up the complaint barrage by being slightly brutal with our MX records as well. And of course, now that the geeky type from R&D isn't around (tripped in a stairwell whilst delivering a memo and broke both his legs in a manner that looks for all the world like he was hit with a length of pipe whilst unconscious - but was obviously caused by the fall) we've got to answer all the inane queries from the people who've already been converted to the faith. "Hello?" I answer, picking up the phone and looking around for witnesses. The PFY, meantime, takes a rest break and diverts attention by engaging the Head of IT in conversation about his weekend. The poor, stupid, bastard. "I've got a problem with my Linux server," the user burbles to me, while The Boss extols the virtues of the traditionally crafted train carriage to The PFY "Your Linux WORKSTATION, Yes." "I can't seem to find Word." "Yes - that's because Word was part of your NT applications, but not part of your Linux installation." "Sorry?" "You don't get Word with Linux." "You're joking, how backward! Well how do I get it installed then?" "You don't. You could install a third-party product like Star Office which is a bit like it, but that's all." "Will my macros work?" "Did you save them to a floppy before you changed your system over?" "No" "Ah well.." "But wait, I think I have a copy on my home machine!" "Excellent. But it won't work anyway." "So why did you ask me if I'd saved them to floppy?" "Oh, Just making polite conversation". "?!" "But wait a minute, you could run a Windows EMULATOR on your Linux box!! Something like Wine." "Wine? What is it?" "Something that users do." "Pardon?!" "Wine? It makes your Linux box pretend to be a Windows box again. Say, how much memory has your machine got?" "64 Meg, the label on the side of the monitor says." "And Processor?" "Uhm, Pentium 166." "Right, and you'd have, what, a 2 gig disk in that baby?" "Got it upgraded to 18!" he brags cheerily. "Excellent, it should run like a charm!" I cry, Pinocchioing away like a trooper "You can probably install it from the R&D guy's FTP server. Do you know how to install things?" "Yes, I've got instructions and I've already installed some stuff this morning." "Some stuff?" "Ah, the SETI project thing, IRC Server and something else which I don't know what it does but this guy on IRC recommended." AND THE HITS JUST KEEP ON COMING! "Someone recommended it, so you installed it?" "Yes." "I see. What's your disk activity light doing?" "Disk Activity light?" "There's two lights on the front of your machine - one's probably got a picture of a cylinder on it." "Oh yes! But it's OK, they're both on." "I see. Staying on constantly?" "Yes. No, wait a minute, the disk thingy clicked off for a moment there. Is it something to worry about?" "I shouldn't think so.." . . . Two days later. "Very SLOW you say?" The PFY cries, after checking the machine specs. "I can't think why. Oh look! Your disk's all used up and the traffic stats on your machine have gone through the roof. You didn't by chance configure a public access FTP server?" "Uh, I might have. To get operating system updates dropped off to me I think the guy said." "Someone on IRC?" The PFY comments, in response to my hand signals - tho' how he got IRC-user from that is anybody's guess - "How thoughtful. Have you run any of those updates?" "One yesterday morning - it took an awful long time to run." "Around the same time as all those machines in your department crashed?" "Uhhhhhmmmm, I don't recall. When was that?" "It doesn't matter. Oooh, I see you've a large number of telnet connections to dialup lines in the Netherlands." "That'll be my chat people. They needed telnet to chat properly." "Of course they do. OK, I think your problem is what we call Phase/Nuetral Hysteresis" "Phase Neuro Hysteria? What does it do?" "Well, sometimes transformers and other magneto/coil devices can get into a hysteresis loop, which causes lossy power." * * * DUMMY MODE ON * * * "Duh huh" "So what you need to do is to nip the Phase Neutral problem in the bud, by cutting the Phase Neutral source for a minute or two" "D-OK?" "Now to do this you'll be cutting through your power cable." "I'll get electrocuted!" "Not if you use non-insulated scissors to protect from static build-up..." The PFY cries, reaching for his jacket. "D-Ok..." . . . One minute later . . . "That'll be the fire alarm" The PFY cries. "Last one to the Pub's a MCSE professional!!" I respond, seeing an opening and taking it. And they say there's no benefits in open source... ® BOFH: You've read the columns - now BUY THE BOOK. BOFH 2K+1: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 BOFH is copyright © 1995-2001, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.
Simon Travaglia, 28 Jul 2001

BOFH: To catch a thief

Episode 15Episode 15 BOFH 2001: Episode 15 "And so how does it work exactly?" The PFY asks, always one for wanting to know a little more of the technical nature of things. "I'm glad you asked" I respond, ever willing to educate inquiring minds. "It's your standard 'Temple of Doom' scenario." "Temple of Doom?" "Yeah, as in 'Indiana Jones'" I murmur, gesturing into the bowels of the supply cupboard. "Your common thief comes in, spots the brand new disk drive and goes for it, tripping the tiny microswitch underneath. This in turn, in a majestic demonstration of cause and effect, energises the two solenoids at the rear of the Mounting Hardware Cabinet behind us. Sadly, and to my deep and lasting regret, the cabinet is both poorly anchored and top-heavy due to the large number of very heavy metallic items stacked in the higher shelves." "And... hinged - to the floor at the front by the look of it," The PFY comments. "I think you'll find that's an optical illusion." "No, it's a pair of hinges - Newly greased too! I'll bet it doesn't even make a sound as descends... But they'd never stay there that long..." "They wouldn't - UNLESS there was more to steal..." It's a sad but true fact that we have a thief in our midst. And something like this can really upset the morale of the workplace - if we actually had some in the first place. The PFY didn't realise the severity at first, but I managed to put him right... "What with fingers being pointed," I tell him, "and accusations flying around - it can't do anyone any good. Then, when the thief is eventually caught, there's the distress of the dismissal, the tears and apology, and worst of all, no boozy leaving party." "Well that's no good," The PFY concurs. "No. And I'd really like to avoid that if possible." "By dropping a cabinet full of mild steel on them?" "I like to think of it as Proactive Kharma," I sigh. "So you know who it is then?" "Of course not!" "You do, don't you..?" "Well, I might have an idea.." "Who?" "Well I looked at the Sign-in Register, and it would appear that whenever a certain Service Engineer visits, things go missing..." "Which one?" The PFY gasps. "The Phone Exchange Bloke." "The one who's doing those rolling digital upgrades?" "The very same!" "What's he stolen?" "What's gone missing you mean? Innocent until proven guilty and all that. Well, there's 512 Meg of DDR RAM, those Brand new P4 motherboards, and your portable MP3 player." "MY MP3 PLAYER!!!" "Yeah, unless you took it home - being the 'Palmtop Device' you described it as in the Purchase Order..." "!" The PFY mourns wordlessly. "There, there," I comfort "You'll feel better once the culprit is caught. Meantime, I'm working on a similar version of this which drops certain struts in the computer room raised floor." "So the floor tiles collapse at one end?" "Launching a cabinet out like a rugby forward.." "So what activates it?" "The radiowaves of an incoming cellphone call - in close proximity to the sensor of course." . . . Two hours later. . . "He's here" The PFY murmurs as the Engineer concerned signs himself and grabs a temporary access card "Right. WELL, WE'RE JUST OFF TO.. MORNING TEA THEN," he adds loudly as we make ourselves absent.. . . . 20 seconds later . . . "Right, don't want to miss this!" The PFY cries, firing up the web cam viewer. "Where's he gone?" "Into the machine room?" I ask? "Right!" Our view changes abruptly to the inside of the computer room where the engineer concerned is putting on his electrostatic charm bracelet in preparation for the board changeover. "What's his contact number?!?!" The PFY demands. I tell him and he's dialling up before I can tell him the guy's out of range.. . . . 2 minutes later . . . "HALF THE BLOODY FLOOR JUST COLLAPSED!" the Engineer gasps to us, as he tries to extract his toolkit out from under one of the chunkier old mainframes. Unsuccessfully. He then makes his apologies and wanders off to get a new toolkit and card. "Bet you hope he wasn't carrying the player in his bag.." I comment. "Yeah, but then what the hel.." Our conversation is interrupted by a muffled crash from the region of Mission control. Dashing to the scene, we find The Boss trying to extract himself from hinge and slide assemblies. "WHAT THE BLOODY HELL WAS THAT!?!" he screams. "One minute I'm returning your Portable ZIP drive, the next minute the whole place collapses!!!" "That would have been the earthquake I guess. Didn't you feel it?" "Wha?" he snuffles, nursing a nasty bruised arm. "Perhaps you should go see the First Aid people," I mention kindly, "just in case..." "Yes, you're probably right.." "SO IT WAS THE BOSS ALL ALONG!" The PFY cries. "No, he really was returning the Zip drive," I reply. "I lent it to him this morning." "So we're back to the Engineer.." "Nah, it wasn't him," I admit as I pack up to wander home. "But I thought you said that he was stealing stuff?!" The PFY cries across the room "No, I said that whenever he visits, things go missing!" "So he's not the then?!" "So who is then?" "Oh, that's me. That other crap was just to throw you off the scent while I nicked your MP3 Player flash RAM cards too.." I cry, as I pop out the door and wedge it shut from the outside. "You bastard!" he shouts, rattling the handle energetically - Energetically enough that I hear the sound of some unoiled hinges squeaking immediately before the crash of a whiteboard swinging down off the wall.. "Yes indeed," I agree. "And what a bastard I am.." ® BOFH: You've read the columns - now BUY THE BOOK. BOFH 2K+1: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 BOFH is copyright © 1995-2001, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.
Simon Travaglia, 28 Jul 2001

The Bastard plays with fire

Episode 16Episode 16 BOFH 2001: Episode 16 It's 8:30am when I rock into work to find the building surrounded by fire engines with firemen clambering all over the place. More helmets than a gay porn website, in fact. When the all-clear's given, I rock on to find the smoke detectors were set off by a small upset with one of the laser printers in the cube farm outside mission control. The almost unlikely coincidence of paper jam, dead fan and dud fuser unit control circuit taking it's toll... "Fans overheat all the time," I say, indicating the wreckage. "But 99.9% of the time they're made of fairly non-flammable stuff, nowhere near anything else flammable, with no harmful effects. This really was a complete accident." The fact of the matter is that it's true. No external influence needed to be applied - it was just old. "But it could have been a major fire!" The Boss blurts - concerned more for the safety of the precious prize Rubber Plant in his office than any actual damage to the building. "It could have been, but it was just a fan and a couple of sheets of paper which set the sensors off. If we'd had heat detectors instead of smoke ones, it'd probably have gone out by itself.." The fire official agrees with my verdict. "It's unusual, but not unheard of," he agrees. "And in this case there was just a half fed page which carried the flame to the page before it." "Well what happened? Who was printing at that hour of the morning, anyway?" The Boss snaps, looking for a culprit. I pop the printer open and remove the remaining half a page of mildly scorched paper from it. "It's.... the bootstrap index from one of our backup systems," I respond. "Printed every night when the backup cycle completes." "Well we should be more careful," he growls. "Fire in a place like this could cause damage." "Very true," the Fire Official says. "Buildings like this with lots of loose paper can go up like a tinder box in the right conditions!" I suppress the urge to sarcastically add: "if doused liberally in petrol" - given the fact the building's majorly concrete, has a temperature-activated sprinkler system, and generally very little "loose paper" laying around to speak of. "Should we be doing something about this?" The Boss asks. "Well, for about 500 quid you could get a comprehensive fire risk audit done by a Fire Marshall." "I see. And where would I get hold of a Fire Marshal?" The Boss asks stupidly "Well it so happens that I do a bit of contract work in that area..." Two days and 500 quid later, we have a "Report" that looks suspiciously like a fire safety document with "Commission exclusively for" and our company's name slapped on the top... "See, we should be operating any equipment that can generate heat in flameproof enclosures!" he gasps "And taking measures to protect against overheating in devices with moving parts!" "I see. When do you think I should do this then?" "When?!? Well as soon as possible!!!" "Ah, I think we'd need a mandate to improve safety around the building," I respond. "People wouldn't just accept our word that things need to be safe." "A mandate! We just had a FIRE! I'm not mandating it, I'm DEMANDING it!" "Right you are," I sigh. "Running all the way." So off I go.. ..for all of 20 minutes, until he calls me up on the cellphone to meet him back at Mission Control... "What's up?" "YOUR BLOODY SAFETY MEASURES!" a beancounter type squeals, emerging from behind the door where he'd been skulking "Told you so," I murmur to the boss. "It seems they think you've been somewhat overzealous. So what happened exactly?" "Well, I didn't want to just storm in there and tell them what to do," I explain patiently "It's dictatorial. Instead I thought we could try a new approach, maybe cure past misdeeds and bury the hatchet." "HE BURIED IT IN MY ZIP DRIVE!" "Well it was a fire hazard!" I respond. "IT BLOODY WASN'T! IT WASN'T EVEN CONNECTED TO MY MACHINE!!!" "A potential hazard then. But it would have been connected sooner or later. And prevention is nine tenths of the cure." "THEN YOU PUSHED MY MONITOR INTO THE BIN!" "It was generating heat. The metal enclosure safeguards it in case of combust..." "Yesssss," The Boss mumbles, changing sides faster than an Italian war hero. "I think you may have gone a bit overboard." "Well it was your report which said to look out for them!" "Yes, but I only meant you to fix up things in serious risk of causing a fire problem." "SERIOUS risk? Ah. You should have said so. Then perhaps I should give the PFY a quick ring - he's covering the flammable gases section." "DON'T BOTHER!" the PFY cries Triumphantly. "I'm DONE! Had a couple of close calls, but the threat of a methane explosion is one of the past!" "What threat of methane explosion?" "Gas, trapped in an enclosed space! I've bashed vent holes between all toilet cubicles - Gents and Ladies - most entertaining, had the kitchen bins moved to outside the building, and of course, eliminated the risk of rotting vegetation off-gases by throwing all plants into the skip across the road." "My Rubber Plant!" The Boss gasps in horror. "Don't worry - didn't touch it. Safe and sound under the UV lamp in your office." "Oh thank goodness. It's a prize winner you know." "Should be even better now - I cleaned the leaves with some alchohol I was tossing out and moved the lamp really close to give it some extra...." The PFY's words are interrupted by a claxon-like noise... "I think you'll be needing this," I blurt, hastily handing the hatchet to The Boss. "For the fire!" I add, noticing his unwavering focus on The PFY... Dangerous places, office Buildings... ® BOFH: You've read the columns - now BUY THE BOOK. BOFH 2K+1: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 BOFH is copyright © 1995-2001, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.
Simon Travaglia, 28 Jul 2001
Click here for the full BOFH range

The Bastard formerly known as Roger

Episode 14Episode 14 BOFH 2001: Episode 14 I'm stuck in an office with a couple of glorified beancounters who want to know how we do things here, and why. The Boss was no help in the matter, displaying all the spine you'd expect from an invertebrate when the idea was passed to him. "But they're Financial and Technical Security Auditors! - You can't REFUSE to see auditors!" he blurts. "Of course you can!" "You can't - it wouldn't pay for us to get a bad Rep in their report." "At least we'd have consistency across reports," I respond, pointing out the silver lining. . . . Half an hour later I'm sitting across a table at mission control from a beancounter/geek who works for some large multinational beancounter outfit with a padful of questions and stacks of time (at a huge hourly rate) to kill. I don't like it. "OK, we'd just like to kick this off with an overview of your current topology and systems. Now, what was your name again?" "I'm afraid that's commercially sensitive information," I respond cheerily. "Pardon?" "It's commercially sensitive. If I tell you and it gets into the wrong hands, who's to know what slave-trading agency would be on the phone the next day trying to headhunt me." "We COULD find that information out from your Phonebook." "I'm not in the phone book. No-one in Systems Admin is." "From the nameplate on the outside of the door then!" "There isn't one." "FROM YOUR PAY DETAILS!!" "I'm a contractor - A company in other words." "OK, From your Boss!" "He's new and doesn't know." "From your Co-Workers then!" "They wouldn't tell you. Even if they DID know my real name, which they don't." "We take security seriously here," The PFY adds, wandering in. "Well we have to call you something!" "Yes. I prefer 'The Systems Administrator formerly known as Roger'" "So your name's Roger then?" "No." "Your name WAS Roger?" "Nope." "So why are you calling yourself the Systems Administrator.. etc" "Oh, so I can identify myself with a single character from the Symbol font." "Which one?" "I don't know its name. Do you have a laptop on you?" "No." "Then I'll have to draw it." ..ten minutes later... "Now, what operating systems do you run?" "Oh, I'm afraid that's commercially sensitive information...." . . . Two hours later . . . "So let's see, you can't tell me anything about you, your company, your work, the specifics of your computing resources, where they're located, your disaster recovery plans nor even where nearest fire exit is - because it's all commercially sensitive information?" "That's correct." "Why is the fire exit commercially sensitive again?" "Because a headhunter might be waiting outside it to make me an offer I can't refuse. See, they set the fire alarms off knowing which way I might leave the building. And get me. Happens all the time in big companies." "So why is there a Fire Exit sign over the door to that fireproof safe over there?" "Throw off industrial spies," The PFY chimes in, nodding knowingly. "Yyyessss," the geek finally says, reaching for the phone. Ten minutes later The Boss arrives, having been sent by a Royal command from somewhere on high. "Now what's this about 'Commercially Sensitive Information?'" he asks. "He won't tell us his name," the geek narks up. "He say's it's commercially sensitive." "And personal information as well," I respond. "My contract states that you can't actually force me to reveal personal information." "He won't tell me what Operating Systems you run either, nor what types of server you have." "Why not?" The Boss asks, testily. "He says it's commercially sensitive information." The Boss' eyes narrow at this statement, so I head him off at the pass. "It's simple," I blurt. "I tell them what OS and machines we're running, then they'll ask me about security and what external access methods we have and how they're penetrated. Before you know it, they'll be wanting to know about who routinely penetrates the firewall from within, how they do it, and where they go when they do. I'd then be forced to reveal details of non-web-cached browsing that management believes isn't logged. Which could be, uh, COMMERCIALLY, sensitive." "Ah! Yes, yes, I'd have to agree! Because if people knew our browsing histories they might be able to, uh.." "..leave messages on the websites concerned encouraging key members of management to defect to a rival company," I complete. "Oh Yes, that's it!" The Boss gasps. Once more, geek two reaches for the phone... "..leave messages on the websites concerned encouraging key members of management to defect to a rival company.." "Oh Yes!" the Head of IT gasps. . . . Five minutes after that. . . "..leave messages on the websites concerned encouraging key members of the Executive to defect to a rival company.." "Ah Yes!" the Assistant CEO gasps unhappily. . . . "This'll all be reflected in my report to the board!" the beangeek blurts threateningly, hoping to sway someone in the chain of command. "You can't hide things just by saying they're commercially sensitive." "Funnily enough, that's what the guy who did the audit last year said." "Did he? I don't remember seeing it." "Well you wouldn't. It was commercially sensitive. So we locked it in the safe over there." "He only had ONE copy!?" "So to speak. Course, It was in his head at the time." The PFY adds to the overall threat by shutting the door and pulling the roller blind down over the viewing window.. . . . "Ah.. Well perhaps I was a little hasty.." the beangeek cries, mid-moment-of-clarity. "Perhaps you DO take systems security seriously." . . . "You didn't really shut someone in the firesafe last year did you?" The Boss asks. "Of course not! But it's the same story I used for last year's guy!" "So what - or who - is in the Fire safe then?" the Head of IT asks suspiciously. "Oh, I'm afraid that's commercially sensitive information." It really is easy when you know how. I should be a politician... ® BOFH: You've read the columns - now BUY THE BOOK. BOFH 2K+1: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 BOFH is copyright © 1995-2001, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.
Simon Travaglia, 28 Jul 2001

BOFH gets exercised

Episode 13Episode 13 BOFH 2001: Episode 13 It's extremely early in the morning and The PFY and I are in to perform some routine maintenance which really IS routine maintenance. Having noticed the payments application has a penchant for memory leaks which causes late delivery of contracting cheques every five weeks or so, we've decided to reboot the servers after slapping in the vendor-supplied fix. And we've just finished the backup of the existing system - not being all that trusting - when the phone rings. We ignore it of course - it's 6:30am and anyone in at work at this time and not at home asleep should be taken home and put to sleep, they're that sad. The phone continues to ring on and off through the installation and reboot, and finally gives up around 7:30am. As luck would have it - not ours mind - the user perseveres in a more traditional manner by ringing The Boss (who should be put to sleep as a matter of course), who deals with complaints in the time-honoured manner guaranteed to add value to the whole process - he passes it directly to us. I walk upstairs and meet a new addition to the company, Carl, from the "Strategic Direction Unit". He motions me to a shiny chrome door which opens to reveal a small gymnasium with a panoramic view of the Thames. (As opposed to the staff one, if we had one, which would be si floors lower with a view - out a grate - of the side of a row of builders' skips. ) State of the art equipment in virgin condition surrounds me. "It's all hooked up to the box over there," he gestures proudly. "You swipe yourself onto a machine, it brings up your profile, then sets the machine to the settings you use, depending on the fitness plan you choose. It's great, I can't understand why no-one has used it!!!" "MMmmm" I agree, faking disbelief. "And your computing problem is?" I ask. "This" he murmurs, tapping a treadmill. "And how can I help you with that?" "Well, I'd like you to fix it." "It's a treadmill, not a computer..." "But it's got a computer in it. And it's connected to one!" "No, it's got a microprocessor in it - You may as well ask me to fix your cellphone!" "Actually, my cellphone has a reception problem too! Do you fix them?" "As a matter of fact I do. Let's have a look." He passes the phone over and I chuck it in the bin. "Right, time to use your phone insurance to get a new one." "I.... Uh.. ... I see... Um, can you actually FIX the treadmill though?" "OF COURSE I can! Give us a hand getting it over to the window and I'll get right onto it!" "Are you proposing to throw it off the balcony?!" "Of course not!" "Good." "No, it FELL off the balcony when you moved it to.. sweep up the place a bit" "I don't sweep! I'm an executive!" "Yes. It's funny, but I don't seem to recognise you.." "I started on Monday. And just yesterday I discovered this gym, completely unused!!!" he responds keenly. "Well, that'd be because of the Management fitness programme. "Oh, they have a programme?" "Puleeese! Have you seen the rest of upper management?" I ask. "As a rule they stop for a rest between floors in the LIFT!" "Yes, I'd noticed. But as it happens, I've sent a memo to the board only yesterday asking them to sponsor gym introduction classes for management - Healthy Mind, Healthy Body - that sort of thing." "Yes, you're right to start with the body I suppose. Thin end of the wedge.." Sigh. After remedying the problem (plugging the machine in and waiting for the self test), I take my leave. As "luck" would have it again, The Boss is waiting for me when I return. "All sorted out" he asks nervously. "Yeah, machine wasn't plugged in. Going like a charm now. All hooked up" "Oh, you plugged it back in then? You wouldn't like to unplug it again would you?" he asks, a mild trace of hysteria present in his voice. "Unplug it?" "Yes, just that we're not all that keen on the exercise thing," he pants, puffing from the strain of even thinking about the possibility. "WE'RE?" "Me and the rest of the IT Management Team. And Accounts too, I hear.." "I see. He'll just plug it back in tho.." "Perhaps you could.. ah.. break.. it?" "I'm sensing some corporate disloyalty here," I say, in a shocked and disappointed way. "If I didn't know better I'd think you didn't have the company's best interests at heart!" "Of course we do. What would it take to prove that this is a bad thing for the company?" "Fifty Quid should convince me.." "Each.." The PFY adds. "Manager.." I add, really getting into the swing of things and realising that none of them wants to be the one to wimp out... "YOU WANT 50 QUID EACH, PER MANAGER!!!" "No, you're probably right, having senior representation in next year's London Marathon is important.." "I'll make some calls." Two hours and two thick brown envelopes later, the requested "repairs" are made. "And you're sure I won't have to actually USE the equipment?" The Boss gasps, wheezing from the effort of trying on his ill-fitting new workout gear which shows so much crack it's probably got a street value.. "Nope, all you have to do is show up..." The next day I'm called up early (again) to look at the exercise machines. "Well," I respond, to the investigating officers questions while looking at the fitness computer, "it seems the treadmill was executing a standard running profile of nine kilometres an hour then changed to a sprint profile, of 50 kilometres an hour for some reason, hurling him out the window and into the builder's skip, into which I'd previously dumped all our old computing boxes - which was VERY lucky." "Lucky?" the officer asks. "He broke both arms, an ankle and has a minor concussion!!" "Nothing too serious then," The Boss comments. The rest is history. With an excuse to mistrust the equipmen,t the Management team is out of there like a shot, leaving The PFY and me to clean up. A couple of words of advice to The PFY are sure to help. "Ok, the exercycles were ok, but the treadmills' much heavier, so we're going to have to get a runup if we're to get it in the skip - I mean out of the way for sweeping.." ® BOFH: You've read the columns - now BUY THE BOOK. BOFH 2K+1: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 BOFH is copyright © 1995-2001, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.
Simon Travaglia, 28 Jul 2001

Dmitry haunts FBI-chief's confirmation

Washington RoundupWashington Roundup President Dubya's nominee to head up the FBI in the wake of recent debacles too numerous to mention, Robert Mueller, just happens to be the fellow responsible for prosecuting Russian programmer Dimitry Sklyarov, who's been hounded by Adobe for helping to develop an application which cracks their eBook Reader. Mueller currently heads the San Francisco US Attorney's Office, which, like its counterparts nationwide, is charged with the solemn responsibility of chasing down rogue programmers and copyright scofflaws on behalf of media giants. Mueller also gets to sit before the US Senate starting Monday to be considered for the top post at FBI, in which capacity he can take the blame for his predecessor's numerous failures. We were intrigued when Mueller agreed to meet with watchdog group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on Friday. Clearly he's worried about Sklyarov haunting his confirmation. During the sit-down, Mueller and company "did not give any indication of their plans for Dmitry," EFF reports. Which is hardly a surprise. We're confident that his interest in the meeting was recon -- to get a sense of how far EFF and others sympathetic towards Sklyarov might go in generating unfortunate publicity starting Monday. It also gave him a chance to look reasonable and fair by listening to the opposition's concerns, regardless of what he decides. He'll have to tread a fine line during the hearings. The Senate will want to hear that he's prepared to enforce the laws which Congress and that army of lobbyists on Capitol Hill stick us with, regardless of how grotesque they may be. On the other hand, if public pressure continues to mount in Sklyarov's favor, Congress will want some manner of loophole by which to change its tune so it can pander to voters later on, and they'll need to know that Mueller won't paint them into a corner with the Sklyarov prosecution. We're thinking a modest fine and several years' probation.... Proving yet again that he never met a piece of populist feel-good crap legislation he didn't like, US Senator Charles Schumer (Democrat, New York) introduced the Anti-Sexual Predator Act of 2001, along with Senate colleague Orrin Hatch (Republican, Utah), who we always thought had more sense and dignity than that. The bill makes a mockery of federal wiretap controls in order to accommodate cops and Feds eager to intercept your personal communications. In this case, they get access to "wire and oral communications relating to child pornography materials," in order to prosecute perverts involved in the "coercion and enticement of individuals to travel interstate to engage in sexual activity, and the transportation of minors for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity." "Oral communications" indeed -- that means a microphone in your bedroom, chumps. Once again, that handy handful of perverts justifies the erosion of everyone's liberty.... The US Department of Justice has asked the appellate court to reject a request from Microsoft to allow it to be heard once again on the finding that it illegally bundled Internet Explorer with Windows. The DoJ reckons MS would only waste the court's time arguing its case endlessly on the premise that if the judges find in its disfavor, they must not have understood the arguments. "Microsoft also treats its petition for rehearing as an occasion to expound upon a variety of topics, most of them irrelevant to the issue at hand," DoJ wrote. Microsoft had filed for the re-hash opportunity in reply to a DoJ request that the case be expedited back to the circuit court.... The US District Court in Philadelphia has rejected a DoJ request to dismiss an important suit challenging the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which forces libraries to filter Internet access or lose their federal support. The court refused to accommodate DoJ, saying that plaintiff the American Library Association (ALA) had given adequate evidence that the CIPA could inhibit free speech. The case will therefore go to trial in February 2002.... US Representatives Henry Waxman (Democrat, California) and Steve Largent (Republican, Oklahoma) released a report Friday in hopes of alarming parents about the terrifying potential for file sharing to disseminate pornography among innocent children. On one hand, the report could be a useful heads-up to parents, encouraging them to keep a closer eye on their brats' online activities. On the other hand, it could be a precursor to an even more aggressive legislative assault against peer networking, on behalf of the media giants who despise it and who contribute so generously to election campaigns.... More Washington news FBI becomes Copyright '911' US Senator aims to kill Win XP launch Watchdogs file Win-XP complaint with Feds FBI cyber-braniacs infect themselves with SirCam Adobe Folds!
Thomas C Greene, 28 Jul 2001