back to article BOFH: 'Twas the night before Christmas, and the ransomware struck

BOFH logo telephone with devil's horns The scene opens in the BOFH's office at 2:43pm on the LAST DAY OF WORK. “I... cannot impress upon you how important this is.” the Director says firmly yet quietly after sneaking into Mission Control on the last day of work with an urgent problem. “Will it take long?” I ask as a sack- …

  1. IceC0ld Silver badge

    BOfH at Xmas, result

    Ho Ho Ho

    Xmas come early, getting my laughs in early, thank you BOfH man :o)

  2. Maverick

    brilliant! have a great christmas all BOFH fans

  3. juice Silver badge

    Beautiful :)

  4. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    What a nice xmas gift

    Merry Christmas/Hannukah/Holiday season of choice to Simon, and to one and all...

  5. OGShakes

    How dare they hide something from him!

    We have a job that looks for any encrypted/password protected files on our network so we can go ask the owner what it is and why its not in an approved secure repository. Apparently in the early days someone password protected a load of critical data on a Friday and forgot the password by the Monday.

    Key loggers should be part of every IT toolbox!

    1. Phil W

      Re: How dare they hide something from him!

      Countless times I've dealt with requests for password protected Excel files where the password has been forgotten.

      Job is closed with a totally unsymptathic email saying we can't help, that they shouldn't use passwords on spreadsheets like that and strongly worded advice that the files should be secured by virtue of where they are stored not through proprietary app based passwords that only one person knows

      1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

        Re: How dare they hide something from him!

        XML based Office Files I thought you could just change the hasPassword flag (After renaming the xlsx/doscx/etc... to zip and uncompressing with the utility of choice)?

        Might be for an older version but it used to work.

        1. Phil W

          Re: How dare they hide something from him!

          @Captain Scarlet

          That worked for 2007/2010 I believe, but 2016 and 2019 the password is no longer in the XML file. I know I know, shocking that MS would bother to patch such a shockingly simple security hole.

        2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: How dare they hide something from him!

          You're talking about workbook and worksheet "protection", which are just GUI settings designed largely to make data entry easier. Workbook encryption as practised by MS, does indeed encrypt the whole workbook, which is then no longer a zip file, and is non-trivial to crack.

          1. J. Cook Silver badge

            Re: How dare they hide something from him!

            And by 'non-trivial', meaning AES-128. I'm still thinking strongly of building a brute force cracking box for excel docs out of one of our old VMware boxes (4 sockets, 48 cores, 'enough' RAM) for the next time one of our staff decides to encrypt a document before exiting...

            1. Glen 1 Silver badge

              Re: How dare they hide something from him!

              TBF, given what most peoples passwords are like, you'd be in with a good chance.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: How dare they hide something from him!

                Losing the passwords to encrypted office documents was such a common occurrence at a previous place I worked that I did indeed build a box to crack them. Figuring most of the people used dictionary words it would just try combinations of words out of the dictionary. As a result the set of potential passwords was much reduced, and I could get away with a relatively underpowered machine.

                99% of the time that worked, with perhaps "123" or equivalent appended to it. Amazing how many people pick random words out of a dictionary.

                The only one that was hard to crack was from a rather cute admin lady who used random letters/numbers and symbols in her password. I borrowed the GPU cluster from the AI guys for that one when it was idle, and it took 4 days of brute force, but got the password (and a dinner date from the lady as a thank you :-) )

      2. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

        Re: How dare they hide something from him!

        Job is closed with a totally unsymptathic email saying we can't help, that they shouldn't use passwords on spreadsheets like that...

        Happened to me as well. Some Project Mangler password protected a critical spreadsheet.

        Two weeks later he asked me for help with the password. Told him that no, I can't.

        He's still stuck with that spreadshit.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How dare they hide something from him!

      We had a chap working in our office on a student placement. He left his pass one night and decided to climb over the wall after a skinfull of booze to retrieve it. Unfortunately it was a government office and people climbing in at night showed up on camera and piqued the interest of the security staff who very quickly apprehended him and handed him over to the plod.

      He was suspended pending investigations and I had the task of checking over the stuff he had stored on a network drive. One file was a WordPerfect document called managers.wpd and when we tried opening it there was a password set on the file. Something suggested that his passwords were not going to be too complex and after trying a few permutations of "password" and "toon army" (yes the office was in Newcastle), I tried "fuckoff" which immediately opened the file. It turned out to be a paranoid rant about a number of the managers and team leaders in the department alongside claims that he knew way more than the rest of us about IT.

      The unprotected file was handed over to HR along with the details from security of him breaking into the site and he was dismissed. I never did find out if he finished his degree, but his immense technical and professional skills must have come in handy somewhere.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: How dare they hide something from him!

        I never did find out if he finished his degree, but his immense technical and professional skills must have come in handy somewhere.

        He's probably in management somewhere. Sounds like he has the proper personality.

        1. Fatman

          Re: How dare they hide something from him!

          I think you forgot an important word, a corrected version is shown below:

          <quote>He's probably in senior management somewhere. Sounds like he has the proper personality.</quote>

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Trollface

    The Director didn't have a chance

    As it should be with a grade-A certified BOFH of Simon's level.

    Well done ! And not even for personal gain ! What an altruist !

    1. stiine Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: The Director didn't have a chance

      Um, I think the BOFH will be opening a pub in 2020.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: The Director didn't have a chance

        I hope not. Running a pub is a losing proposition.

        Owning one is not...

  7. Phil W

    A what USB stick?

    Ok, I hate to seem ignorant but what is a "Class 10 USB Stick"?

    SD Cards have numbered classes but I have literally never seen "Class x" associated with a USB flash drive.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A what USB stick?

      Me either... but then, perhaps that's just the BOFH throwing jargon at the clueless Director?

      1. Phil W

        Re: A what USB stick?

        I wondered that but it didn't seem jargony enough.

        1. Antonius_Prime

          Re: A what USB stick?

          Nah, same technique the gents wot dun threaten us wif the dirty vids they claim to have taken use.

          Throw some plausible & google-able terms at non-techs to up the sense of urgency.

          In fact, the entire episode could be used to illustrate how these plonkers fall for these scams!

          Blindingly great episode though! I was in audible laughter in the office here.

          Thank $deity that theres no one else here.

      2. 2Nick3

        Re: A what USB stick?

        He also says it to the PFY, who doesn't bat an eye at it:

        “But they DO have a Class-10 USB stick with a key logger on it.”

        “Ah!”

        So there is something more there than meets the eye (or USB port)!

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: A what USB stick?

          He also says it to the PFY, who doesn't bat an eye at it:

          “But they DO have a Class-10 USB stick with a key logger on it.”

          In teams like those, if you hear a new term it's best NOT to question/argue it.

          Besides, "class 10 USB" (which almost starts to rhyme with ID 10 T) could be BOFH/PFY code for "stick with a keylogger", although perhaps the "class 10" bit is a simple moniker for "don't shove this in YOUR computer" with the actual function being separate issue (logger, surge-protection tester, fire-suppression tester....)

    2. Return To Sender

      Re: A what USB stick?

      A useful piece of plausible jargonese guaranteeing that the director won't have just any old USB stick, thus allowing BOFH to slip in the key logger.

      AFAIK 'class' does indeed only exist in the world of SD cards

      1. defiler Silver badge

        Re: A what USB stick?

        Speak for yourself - I'm pretty classy. In fact I'm kind of a big deal. :-P

      2. elwe

        Re: A what USB stick?

        Nope, I have seen USB sticks sold with the same class reference. Other formats of memory card too, compact flash for instance.

        1. J. Cook Silver badge

          Re: A what USB stick?

          My guess is that they are advertising that it's the same speed/grade of memory that's in the SD card.

          Might even be something silly, like a USB card reader with a non-removable SD card on it.

          1. Great_Cthulhu
            Alien

            Re: A what USB stick?

            https://www.quora.com/Why-does-USB-Flash-have-a-different-write-speed-Class-1-10

            This should provide the answer you seek, puny mortal. Never let it be said you didn't get something good for your sacrifices...

    3. TRT Silver badge

      Re: A what USB stick?

      USB3 as well. A rare beast for a simple memory stick in an office environment! Especially amongst those who just use the ones given away free and full of sales blurb at conferences.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. Criggie

      Re: A what USB stick?

      I expected it to be one of those USB drives chock-full of capacitors, and charged up to some number of kilovolts.

      USB Killer was one name... https://techcrunch.com/2015/03/12/this-usb-drive-can-nuke-a-computer/

  8. chivo243 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Mis-Direction

    Nice Job! Keep him running...puff sputter

  9. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    Happy Figgypuddingmas everyone!

    And a preposterous* New Year!

    *Like prosperous but a lot funnier

    1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Merry syphilis and a happy gonorrhea

  10. BebopWeBop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    can’t believe you’re helping him,” the PFY says, looking at me like some class traitor.

    The PFY is still charmingly naive....

    But a great column for the day

    1. Alister Silver badge

      The PFY is still charmingly naive...

      It's a plot device to allow the BOFH to do a bit of exposition, otherwise there's no way for the readers to be in on the action.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Ah ha, so you're saying that the PFY is Bonnie Langford as the BoFH is The Doctor? Let's hope the PFY hasn't been taking notes or he'll be coming for you!

      2. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Early BOFHs - mostly pre-PFY - used to be a bit more 'internal monologue' so the PFY isn't essential for exposition, especially one who has been there for some time and could be expected to have learned from the master...

        M.

        1. baud Bronze badge

          Perhaps the BOFH is getting a new PFY once the current one has learned enough. Especially if the PFY is thinking of taking the BOFH's seat for himself.

  11. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Pint

    Nice one!

    I'll drink to that! Fitting start to the festive season.

  12. asphytxtc
    Thumb Up

    Astounding! That's successfully zapped ten minutes of my last three hours of the working year! Merry Xmas all :D

  13. Dave K Silver badge

    Great start to Christmas. Cheers Simon!

  14. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    A very pleasant surprise.

    made me quite simply LOL... several times

  15. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    And

    there goes the last keyboard of the year

    Merry Xmas .. from under your fridge

  16. stuartnz

    Xmas cheer

    It's a cool, damp grey day up here in Simon's homeland, but this masterpiece has lifted the gloom. Literally laughing out loud, I may be sufficiently fortified to watch the best (imo ONLY) Xmas movie ever, despite the trauma of knowing the hero dies. RIP Rickman.

    1. Montreal Sean

      Re: Xmas cheer

      This year I introduced my 2 kids to Die Hard.

      Both boys (7 and 10) complained when my wife and I said we were going to make them watch our favourite Christmas movie.

      They were very surprised when the guns came out. :)

      After the movie finished we told them not to tell their teachers and definitely not yell "Yippee kai yay motherf*ucker!" when they return to class after the holidays. :)

    2. Outski
      Pint

      Re: Xmas cheer

      "I may be sufficiently fortified to watch the best (imo ONLY) Xmas movie ever"

      I didn't know Rickman was in Muppet Christmas Carol

    3. Cyril

      Re: Xmas cheer

      Apparently you have never seen The Ref with Denis Leary. It also has guns (or a gun) and hostages.

      My favorite Christmas movie.

  17. earl grey Silver badge
    Pint

    Merry BOFH day to all

    And to all a good night.

  18. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
    Pint

    Merry Happies, Everyone

    Xmas day and 45C where I live in Oz and here I am taking notes from a tutorial on how to buy a pub.

    Be well and stay safe fellow commentards.

    1. Hazmoid

      Re: Merry Happies, Everyone

      At least where I am the temperature isn't expected to exceed 35 celsius.

      My eldest was working until quite late trying to recover a server that, to quote him,"This server is more important to the client than Jesus is to the Pope". His job was to replace the server motherboard and get it to the stage where the remote support could login through the ilo and rebuild the server from bare metal. However as he was about to leave the data centre, the storage array for that server crashed as well :( Quick call to the support contractors that deal with that and he was on his way :)

      1. Kiwi Silver badge

        Re: Merry Happies, Everyone

        However as he was about to leave the data centre, the storage array for that server crashed as well

        It never ceased to amaze me that.. In all the tech-type roles I've worked.. Some critical piece of hardware churns away very happily for the whole year without the slightest hint of skipping a beat.. But 20 seconds before holiday o'clock it has a "hard shutdown", one that may involve shedding gears, shredding large drive chains (when you see one with links the size of your hands get caught up in something with a many-multi-tonne flywheel and the inertia to match you'll know), and an urgency to fix beyond your life-expectancy (ie if you don't promise to fix it now, it'll be worth it to management to hire someone to 'encourage' you to deal with it).

        Ok I haven't been hit quite that bad, but I can think of at least 10 holidays in the last 20 years where I've been delayed leaving work by several hours. Which is why I own 2 vehicles, so I can do the final pre-hol check on one a few days before and then park it. Been caught out before planning some minor alterations with the Christmas bonus only to not be able to get away from work in time to enjoy it.

  19. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Pint

    One implausibility..

    ..is that people at the director level would likely be able to just find 50K in their sofa cushions, already looted from their underlings who see a pittance of a bonus, if any at all.

    But great end of the year BOFH. Thankful I don't have to back to work until the 2nd.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: One implausibility..

      I'm back on the 6th.

      Like any good BOFH I still got a couple days' leave left over. Maybe a bit of careful planning and a visit to some boondocksy place is needed...

  20. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
    Pint

    Excellent pressie from Simon.

    Thank you! This will be another classic.

    Here, hope you like a beer sans laxatives...

  21. gerdesj Silver badge
    Pint

    Genius

    This episode is up there with the best, it didn't even require a fork 'andles angle.

    Was hál.

  22. Harry WWC

    a modern day...

    ...robin hood(lum)

  23. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    >clonk< >stumble<

    Be careful running around in the dark. You might get eaten by a grue!

  24. james 68

    Ahh, the memories

    Reminds me of a place I once worked in Belfast. All the staff were looking forward to the usual Christmas bonus only to be told that there wasn't enough to go round that year (which came as a surprise to everyone considering the company had done rather better than normal). When everyone returned from the Christmas period what did we all discover? Both bosses had acquired brand new and fully optioned VW Passats. Purely by coincidence of course.... bloody cockwombles.

    1. Kiwi Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: Ahh, the memories

      Both bosses had acquired brand new and fully optioned VW Passats. Purely by coincidence of course.... bloody cockwombles.

      Place I worked at we had a petty cash tray which the boss used to raid quite often. One year us workers decided we'd put a portion of the incoming cash aside and give the boss a surprise at the end of the year.

      Sure enough, we gave him quite a considerably sum of cash at the end of the year. Still no bonuses but come Jan, the bosses rather poor girlfriend (with a very bad credit rating) had somehow managed to buy him gifts with a value strangely matching that of the cash we'd saved.

      Suffice to say the following year we had a slightly different distribution policy.

  25. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    Is that Jim Killock?

  26. rskurat

    Sounds like something from Private Eye's In The Back

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