back to article Lost in translation and adrift in cloud storage

Welcome to a cautionary Who, Me?, a warning to all those lured by the promises of the cloud storage giants and a language lesson for all. Our story concerns "Dirk", who at the time of our tale was hard at work in a Netherlands IT department. Dirk himself didn't actually speak much Dutch; his first language was English but that …

  1. Evil Auditor
    Facepalm

    beheerder

    Came across such an account some years ago. At that time, for all I knew, this looked just like any another user name following more or less their naming convention. I wondered though (in fact, I got quite shirty), why a person who didn't even belong to the IT department had administrative permissions on the system.

    1. Dr Paul Taylor

      Dictionary?

      If you're working in a country that uses a different language, maybe you keep a dictionary on your desk? Especially if it looks like a word in the local language? Or ask a native speaker?

      1. Evil Auditor

        Re: Dictionary?

        I fully agree. The problem was that this looked pretty much like a user name of, e.g. a person called Bernd Heerder.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Dictionary?

          But that isn't a typical Dutch name, with a first name Bernd I would expect it to be someone whose first language is German.

          1. Evil Auditor

            Re: Dictionary?

            Dutch, German - how would I know?! Btw, Bernd was just an example and I guess there are some typically Dutch names that start with Be*.

            1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: Dictionary?

              There are and I have one.

              1. MCMLXV

                Re: Dictionary?

                There are and I have one.

                Beelzebub?

      2. Ordinary Donkey

        Re: Dictionary?

        It can be hard to find some words in a dutch-english dictionary just because they tend to construct complex concepts from word fragments. In this case the word takes 'person', adds a prefix to turn it into a verb and then adds a suffix to mean someone who performs that verb.

        So it's a person who points people at tasks. A manager.

  2. elhvb

    google translate anyone?

    I am native Dutch, if I was working in another country I would run any admin accounts through google translate to see what they were. There must be a root/admin account somewhere and it should be marked as such.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: google translate anyone?

      1) google translate still is sort of... unreliable

      2) it was doubly so waaay back

      3) who creates admin accounts with a localised name? I'm not a native English speaker, and have worked in countries where English is not the main language. I have not come across that in the last decade at the very least. Not even two decades ago in a very small group - I'm not saying it does not happen (it does), but, hey, who in their right mind... (ok, wrong question)

      4) his predecessor basically shrugged - not sure if he/she was dutch speaking - maybe? Should have spotted that.

      Oh, and hindsight is 20/20, as they say...

      1. MacroRodent Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: google translate anyone?

        > who creates admin accounts with a localised name?

        Maybe the localisation system? I don't know this particular system, but if you install Windows to use Finnish, it helpfully shows nearly everything in the UI in Finnish. The underlying admin user name might not be altered, but what the GUI shows is.

        My son accidentally set the language to Spanish when taking his new Windows PC in use. That was fun (and lucky it was not Hebrew or Chinese). It still occasionally shows some texts in Spanish, even after trying to tell it we want to run it in Finnish. Probably would require a reinstall.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: google translate anyone?

          A few years ago I bought a grey market import of a Nokia smart phone from Hong Kong.

          It turned up configured in English, as I recall, but when I did a factory reset for whatever reason it reverted to Hong-Kongian.

          I can't remember how I got it back to English.

          1. CountCadaver Silver badge

            Re: google translate anyone?

            Cantonese IIRC

            Went to university (in the UK) with several guys from the PRC, only problem was 2 of them spoke mandarin with a smattering of English and the other spoke Cantonese with a smattering of English....doing a project with them was "fun" particularly as the 2 who spoke mandarin were lazy sods who spent their time outside smoking (when they turned up) and rarely made any input into the project, cue me and the other trying to complete a 4 person project....that was a fubar....

          2. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: google translate anyone?

            I can't remember how I got it back to English.

            Another opium war?

        2. Mike 16 Silver badge

          Local?

          In the U.S. the ATMs of at least some banks allow you to set the language to be used for your account. One fellow of my acquaintance set his to Italian, because he was studying Italian and wanted a bit of light "immersion". Apparently his bank stored (for his account or possibly on his card) not the language per se, but the index into a table of languages supported by a given ATM (or group of ATMs?)

          At least that is the best we could guess for what happened when he was across town in a Polish neighborhood.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: Local?

            In other countries the language selection is limited to the session and only appears for foreign cards.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Local?

            "[...] ATMs of at least some banks allow you to set the language to be used for your account. "

            A friend was born in Hong Kong but lived in English-speaking countries all her life. When she visited her family in HK she found that the ATMs only prompted her in Chinese - in which she had very little competence.

            A colleague was the son of HK immigrants who lived all his life in the UK. On visits to HK he found that the taxis had an increasing scale of tariffs - one for Chinese speakers, one for English-speakers, and the most expensive for people like him who were Chinese but didn't speak the language.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: google translate anyone?

        "1) google translate still is sort of... unreliable"

        Yep it is, I have huge issues with german, myself.

        "3) who creates admin accounts with a localised name? I'm not a native English speaker, and have worked in countries where English is not the main language. I have not come across that in the last decade at the very least. Not even two decades ago in a very small group - I'm not saying it does not happen (it does), but, hey, who in their right mind... (ok, wrong question)"

        More people than what you think. In China or Japan, it's quite common, as is also common to ask you for support and connection to the localized systems. It's not funny ...

      3. Evil Auditor

        Re: google translate anyone?

        who in their right mind...

        Good question. In my case, cf. post above, it was at a Belgian company. Can't remember if the software where I found it had its origin in Belgium or the Netherlands.

      4. Remy Redert

        Re: google translate anyone?

        3) Microsoft does, of course.

      5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: google translate anyone?

        "Oh, and hindsight is 20/20, as they say..."

        And, for this year only, it should be in full working order.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: google translate anyone?

          "[..] for this year only, [...]"

          The way events are being postponed - 2021 is going to be renamed as 2020.

    2. druck Silver badge

      Re: google translate anyone?

      You don't even need to go to google translate, just highlight beheerder on the page, and chose search in google from the context menu, and the translation to administrator is right there.

  3. chivo243 Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    Apparently, "beheerder" means "administrator".

    After many years in NL, this one brought a chuckle... ja hoor!

    1. jonathan keith Silver badge

      Re: Apparently, "beheerder" means "administrator".

      Throughout the whole article I was reading it as "beeherder", and thinking "I know those Dutch are crazy, but WTF?"

      More caffeine required.

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

        Re: Apparently, "beheerder" means "administrator".

        @jonathan keith - 'I was reading it as "beeherder"'

        Maybe not so different, they're both difficult jobs, and you're going to get stung!

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Apparently, "beheerder" means "administrator".

          It might sound strange to an outsider, but my Wife hasn't been stung in the nearly thirty years she has been helping me take care of our bees. I get stung once every two or three years. The disparity is probably because I'm a clumsy oaf compared to her. Honey bees in general go WAY out of their way to avoid stinging.

          1. e^iπ+1=0

            Honey bees in general go WAY out of their way to avoid stinging.

            Isn't that because they die when stinging?

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Honey bees in general go WAY out of their way to avoid stinging.

              No, they don't always die. Here's a short safe for work clip demonstrating a couple bees surviving after stinging a beekeeper. The third one stays on the gent even after working herself free, without a care in the world. Honey bees aren't out to get humans.

              Note: If you are in an area where so-called "africanized bees" live, life is a trifle more complicated. For safety's sake, don't approach an unknown hive without the advice and consent of a beekeeper ... Occasionally, even the most docile of hives will get pissy for a couple hours. A beekeeper will see the "come back later" signs that you might miss.

      2. Imhotep Silver badge

        Re: Apparently, "beheerder" means "administrator".

        I thought administrators herded cats?

        1. Flightmode

          Re: Apparently, "beheerder" means "administrator".

          Cisco administrators?

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: Apparently, "beheerder" means "administrator".

          "I thought administrators herded cats?"

          Common misconception.

          Managing administrators (programmers, engineers, etc.) is like herding cats; they don't actually do the herding themselves. Usually. There are exceptions.

      3. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Apparently, "beheerder" means "administrator".

        Throughout the whole article I was reading it as "beeherder", and thinking "I know those Dutch are crazy, but WTF?"

        More caffeine required.

        Caffeine is a requirement. I misread it as Beerherder and wondered how does one herd beer?

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Apparently, "beheerder" means "administrator".

          "how does one herd beer?"

          Ask any craft brew aggregator.

  4. GrumpyOF
    Facepalm

    With the lockdown, sorry, but no beer.

    1. jake Silver badge
      Pint

      Reason #3641 ...

      ,,, why one should learn the fine art of homebrewing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Reason #3641 ...

        Or the fine art of disaster preparedness.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Reason #3641 ...

          Of course. But we were talking about a subset of that ... maintaining the beer supply.

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Reason #3641 ...

            Beer hoarder - I need to resupply soon.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Reason #3641 ...

          "Or the fine art of disaster preparedness"

          Which begs the question; are all the Preppers sealed in their bunkers for the duration? Will this raise the average IQ?

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Reason #3641 ...

            "are all the Preppers sealed in their bunkers for the duration? Will this raise the average IQ?"

            From direct observation here in Sonoma County, yes and yes. One such armed-to-the-teeth dude living in his hole in the ground (literally ... they are living in their fall-out shelter for the duration) called me and asked if I'd be kind enough to put some dog, cat, chicken, goat and rabbit food outside his gate ... seems he only had enough on hand for two weeks. I didn't bother telling him that the cats, rabbits, chickens and goats could fend for themselves ... and that the dogs would do just fine on rabbit and chicken. Takes all kinds, I guess ...

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Reason #3641 ...

              I wonder how many other Preppers have just realised they forget certain essential items too? Greta fun while it's still just a "game", but suddenly they think it's "real" and the mind is suddenly more concentrated on what really is "essential". You can't eat guns'n'bullets.

    2. molletts

      .. and that, for anyone still wondering, is why, when seemingly everyone else was flocking to the bog roll aisle, I was quietly cleaning out all the local supermarkets' (admittedly rather meagre) supplies of Weissbier.

      Got to get the survival priorities right, after all.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        [instead of bog roll] I was quietly [buying] supplies of Weissbier.

        I take it your bidet is fed from a local storage tank, rather than mains water, then?

  5. TrumpSlurp the Troll
    Coat

    If it had been....

    ....catheerder it might have been more obvious.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If it had been....

      kat herder?

      Icon: my wife's opinion of cats

      1. DJV Silver badge

        Icon: my wife's opinion of cats

        Your wife's opinion of cats looks pretty anony-mouse!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If it had been....

        shaddap you nerfherder!

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    The problem is not beheerder

    One can argue about Google Translate and its relevance back then, or how the previous admin should have been a bit more knowledgeable, but the real problem has nothing to do with the admin name.

    The real problem is that this Dirk launched a file operation without checking what he would be transferring. It's that second of inattention that always gets you, and it got him.

    When you are the admin, you never initiate a file operation without checking and double-checking what you're doing. With your access, it's way too dangerous not to. He didn't check, and the mayhem lasted a month. I'm guessing that was a learning experience for him.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: The problem is not beheerder

      Rather like fire safety - always ensure you have two exits available.

    2. Willy Ekerslike
      Mushroom

      Re: The problem is not beheerder

      In the DIY business, it's "measure twice and cut once." An aphorism many, across many disciplines, could do well to acknowledge...

      1. DJV Silver badge

        Re: The problem is not beheerder

        Yes, though there are still too many people who are perfectly happy to do this!

      2. Evil Auditor
        Joke

        Re: The problem is not beheerder

        In the DIY business...

        Where is my folding rule? Oh sod it! I'll just cut and make it fit somehow. [cutting ongoing] Darn! It's too short. But nothing that can't be fixed with some glue.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The problem is not beheerder

        "In the DIY business, it's "measure twice and cut once."

        A friend was renovating a farmhouse as his new family home. To trim costs he ordered and fitted the large kitchen worktops himself. One section had needed a corner cut out. When he put it in place the cut out was too long - he had measured incorrectly. So he re-measured and and ordered a replacement - which turned out to have the same mistake. It stayed like that for years.

        One day he was sawing a piece of wood on the kitchen table. As he was sawing he related how - many years ago - he had cut into the table top by mistake. This time when he finished - he found he had done the same again.

        My door was having its two custom stained glass panels fitted. The acclaimed artist found that they were 100mm too wide. She had take them away and hack them down to size. She said that was the first time she had ever mis-measured. In fact the loss of part of the design actually improved it - as the brain subjectively expanded it to wider than the missing slice.

    3. cschneid

      Re: The problem is not beheerder

      > It's that second of inattention that always gets you, and it got him.

      We used to call that the "OhNoSecond."

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: The problem is not beheerder

        How civilized, we used another, less polite (four letter word) expletive instead of "No".

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: The problem is not beheerder

          Yeah, we called it the FuckNoSecond too. We were never able to define the duration accurately although the duration seemed to be inversely proportional to the severity of the result while having a gut chill factor of about 11 so the subjective duration was about 11 times longer than the objective duration.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The problem is not beheerder

            "[..] the duration seemed to be inversely proportional to the severity of the result [...]"

            Our brain's perception of time is subjective. In an emergency time slows down.

  7. OzBob

    And there coimes a point in IT

    where you must learn to distrust the automated function and perform it manually and in a phased approach. This was one of those times.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: And there coimes a point in IT

      After all, as the old saying goes - "to err is human, but to really f**k things up you need a computer..."

  8. Chris G Silver badge

    Beeherder

    I was offered that as a job once wiith three times my normal wages but I didn't take it.

    It was a sting!

  9. ahjgta

    Security?

    I'm under the impression that renaming root /admin is a security feature.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Security?

      That's what I thought - sure I've read somewhere that you rename the admin account to something innocuous, and set up a "dummy" admin account for the hackers to waste their time with?

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Security?

        Half of that was automatically and unintentionally done by setting up the system in Dutch.

        Even being Dutch I don't understand that as most of the translations are atrocious (although getting better) and the automatic keyboard lay-out selection of Dutch isn't really helpful either as 99.99% of the keyboards here have a US lay-out and selection US-International works best with the diacritical characters Dutch (like most other continental European countries) uses.

      2. TeeCee Gold badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Security?

        Well, for the s'kiddies to waste their time with.

        Any actual hacker would immediately spot that your "obvious" admin account lacked admin authority, laugh quietly at the piss poor implementation of "security through obscurity" and carry on.

        1. Montreal Sean

          Re: Security?

          @TeeCee

          That's why I use the Jedi method.

          Admin account renamed to "thisisnttheaccountyourelookingfor"

          It's a right pain to type in though...

          1. spireite Bronze badge
            Alert

            Re: Security?

            I prefer 'areyoufeelingluckypunk' personally, because that is exactly what any admin should say to them selves!

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Security?

      "I'm under the impression that renaming root /admin is a security feature."

      You are under the wrong impression. That's like hiding your front door--any serious threat will either watch you go to the hidden door before repeating your actions, search thoroughly and find the door anyway, or smash through the wall. Root can be called root, just secure it. That means secure passwords, no login to root directly unless through hardwired or trusted interfaces, limited need to go to root anyway (E.G. programs that need to run with special access being run in a user account with that access when possible), and limited knowledge of how to get to root.

  10. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Learn something new everyday.

    the land of clogs, windmills and dykes.

    I never new the Netherlands was full of lesbians. Here I thought it was dikes.

    Well played El Reg.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Learn something new everyday.

      According to my OED, dyke is a modern (1930s) British misspelling of the Middle English (13th C.) dike, meaning (roughly) a barrier preventing passage of something ... Yes, that's right, the British can't even splel their own words correctly. And yet they presume to attempt to "correct" the rest of us at every opportunity? There is probably a word for that ...

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Learn something new everyday.

        And the correct Dutch spelling is "dÿk" although in typing "dijk" is acceptable because the "ÿ" isn't on keyboards and a bit more difficult to enter. With modern computers it becomes easier again.

      2. spireite Bronze badge
        Trollface

        Re: Learn something new everyday.

        Here's a thought - did lesbians exist in the 13th C ??? - ohhh... different dyke...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Learn something new everyday.

          "[...] did lesbians exist in the 13th C [...] "

          The word did not exist until the Victorians started labelling people as rigid boxes.

          It's like asking if men had male lovers... both are normal human sexual affinities noted in the earliest stories of human civilisations.

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