back to article Pop quiz: The network team didn't make your change. The server is in a locked room. What do you do?

Welcome to another entry in The Register's Who, Me? archives. Today, a reader goes full Hollywood to save the day (and fix some IP addressing). Our story comes from Dave and takes us back to the Australia of the 1990s. It was the era of Paul Keating and John Howard and, significantly, a time of advancement in …

  1. Alan J. Wylie
    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Obligatory XKCD

      Damn, beat me to it.

  2. ColinPa Silver badge

    Under the floor

    I was working with a customer for a week or two. While we were working some men were installing a partition to split the room into "machines" and "humans". We arrived on Monday to find the workmen had finished building the partition, but we could not get into the "machine" side because no one knew the combination to the secure door. Up came the floor tiles and someone (small) went under the door, refixed the floor tiles and let us all in.

    For all of my time there, that door was locked open. I do not know if anyone knew the combination. I found out later that the workmen did not know the combination - they just installed the lock. At another customer I found that these locks had a default combination code - and most customers did not bother changing it!

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Under the floor

      We arrived on Monday to find the workmen had finished building the partition, but we could not get into the "machine" side

      You were making life hard for yourselves, using fdisk to make the partitions would have been much easier

    2. Mast1

      Re: Under the floor

      Many years back, I watched a team come in to install a firedoor on my corridor. Did a very nice job, from concrete floor right up to ceiling tiles. Once they had re-instated and left, I went to the house services manager to ask if it was supposed to be a fire door. I then pointed out that there was a 30cm void above the ceiling tiles running the entire length of the corridor. There seems to have been a flaw in the tendering process....... Cue the return of the workmen.

      For those right-ponders, think of how the the (1987?) Kings Cross fire (specifically the smoke) spread up the escalators.

    3. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Under the floor

      At another customer I found that these locks had a default combination code - and most customers did not bother changing it!

      I found this out in the mid 80s. From subsequent "how the hell did you do that?" conversations over the years, I'd reckon at least 75% don't bother to change the combinations.

      1. Keith Oborn

        Re: Under the floor

        Richard Feynman, Los Alamos, safes

        Look it up if you don't know the story--.

        1. DJV Silver badge

          Re: Under the floor

          Thanks for that - I just found a PDF download of Feynman's chapter "Safecracker meets Safecracker" and read it. Most amusing! The download can be found here:

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Under the floor

        Over a long enough time, the wear patterns on push-button locks can also be very useful.

    4. Blank Reg Silver badge

      Re: Under the floor

      I found that with some of these locks no combination was required. I used to get into the server room by fishing a wire behind the plate that was meant to stop you from messing with the door latch and then pulling.

      1. Totally not a Cylon

        Re: Under the floor

        Are you the 'Lock Picking Lawyer'?

        1. Blank Reg Silver badge

          Re: Under the floor

          Nope, I just often had to get in the server room in the middle of the night.

      2. DougMac

        Re: Under the floor

        Just watch Deviant's physical security videos on Youtube.

        Plenty of ways around most locks.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Under the floor

          Deviant is a riot.

          If you ever get the chance to be part of his 'lockpicking village' at a Con or something, do so.

          He's got stories to tell...

          (I met him at HackCon in Oslo years ago)

      3. Daedalus

        Re: Under the floor

        One office I worked at had a motion detector on the inside of the entrance to let people out without any waving of tags or punching of codes.

        What the designers had failed to notice was the gap between the double doors, through which one might have passed something, perhaps a card in a cleft stick (copyright Evelyn Waugh) to wave in the hope of tripping the detector from outside.

        I toyed with the idea of mentioning this to somebody, but meh. After a decade or so in the business, you give up on fixing stupid.

        Another company, a little startup, had a small cube farm carved out of a loading dock space using flimsy looking walls, secured with a card swipe lock. I didn't have the heart to tell them that any thieves would probably gain access with a crowbar before resorting to any electronic jiggery pokery.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Under the floor

        I used to work for a manufacturer of Hardware Security Modules (cards running software to securely store keys and perform cryptography). The software was signed (of course) and we ate our own dog-food. The signing the main software was a real palaver with hardware stored in the accountants safe and smartcards owned by several different individuals being needed to permit the signing. However some other stuff was a bit less over-the-top, and the hardware was stored in a locked filing cabinet in the (open plan) development office.

        Problem was, that there were only six keys, and seven people needed access. No problem, the chief cryptographer had an interest in physical security, and just used a bent paperclip (as quickly as anybody with a proper key). This had two advantages - firstly there was no need to get another key cut; and more importantly, nobody was under any illusions as to the security properties of the filing cabinet.

        1. Potty Professor Bronze badge

          Re: Under the floor

          My wife and I were on holiday on the Isle of Skye, and we went to visit the seal sanctuary, which was about a mile from the car park. As my wife was in a wheelchair, I went to have a look at the security barrier across the dirt road leading from the car park to the hide. It was locked, and there was a notice saying that Blue Badge holders could ring an Edinburgh number to get the combination. I tried to ring the number, but there was no reception anywhere in the car park, and no land line within walking distance either. Looking at the lock, it was a simple four disc combination lock, which I picked in less than 30 seconds, and we were through. Drove up to the hide to watch the seals lying about on the mudflats, until the tide came in and they all buggered off, so drove back to the car park, no need to pick the lock as I now knew the combo. Security, what security?

          1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

            Re: Badge holders could ring an Edinburgh number to get the combination

            You should have asked the seals. It's part of their job - nominative determinism and all that.

          2. EnviableOne Silver badge

            Re: Under the floor

            0000 or 1234?

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Under the floor

          "a locked filing cabinet"

          Things may be different now but back in the day there seemed to be a lot of filing cabinets with the same key.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Under the floor

            Who needs keys with filing cabinets? I have one lock pick that'll open almost all of 'em, and about as fast as with the key.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Under the floor

        Back in my days at ICL Feltham, it was all a matter of timing... Once a week, at 10.30AM prompt, there was a fire alarm test, and every secure lock in the building opened for the duration!

  3. jake Silver badge

    Been there, done that.

    I've gone under raised floors, too. And once knocked a hole through the sheetrock adjacent to the door, reached through & opened the door. And several times I simply picked the lock.

    A buddy took out a cold chisel and mini-sledge (lump hammer to you Brits) and physically removed a couple cinder blocks once. He was even nice enough to repair it later (his Dad was a bricklayer and he earned pocket money as a teenager, helping him on weekends).

    One does what one must to keep the bits flowing ... although these days one would likely be thrown in jail for even daring to voice such options.

    1. nintendoeats Silver badge

      Re: Been there, done that.

      You didn't recently publish a book about Commodore did you ;)

    2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Re: Been there, done that.

      Never heard of mini sledge before but makes more sense than an engineer hammer, surprised no mag lock stories though. They are easy enough assuming everything is on UPS, kill the power walla. If you can't just quick kick to the door followed by whoever from security realising just how crap they are.

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

        Re: Been there, done that.

        One place I had to go in occasionally out of hours, we were actually instructed to shoulder barge the side door to get in. Worked every time, and someone had helpfully fixed a thick wadge of foam to the wall parallel to the hinge side, so you had a reasonably soft stop and it didn't make a lot of noise.

    3. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

      Re: Been there, done that.

      On a long contract we were staying in a guest house which had a bar. Bed, breakfast, evening meal and a little light refreshment.....

      The landlord was upset because the beer-pipes from his cellar had to take a long route before reaching the bar and consequently the first few pints were warm and wasted. The direct route was much much shorter but there was a major rock in the way. We said why not drill a hole? Because the distance was about 2 metres..... My colleague plucked the Hilti out of his van with the long drill-bit..... In under half an hour new holes for new pipes.

      We were given a few free beers but he said he wouldn't/couldn't support a full evening's attack on supplies.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Been there, done that.

        We were given a few free beers but he said he wouldn't/couldn't support a full evening's attack on supplies.

        You should have negotiated for the first beers for the rest of the duration of your stay, as those would have been wasted.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Been there, done that.

        Worked in an old plant that had been used for making fuses and such for military purposes.

        Facilities decided they needed a hole for some cable or other. I'm not sure what they used, but it took them several days of drilling to get through the reinforced and hardened bunker-style concrete wall.

    4. Dyspeptic Curmudgeon

      Re: Been there, done that.

      Long ago in a galaxy far far... well you know the rest, I worked for a large mining company. In the head office, downtown office tower yada yada. A security consultant was making a pitch to hold a security review. Ended up with him making a bet that he could get to the CEO's corner office in less than 10 minutes from the elevators without bashing in the front doors, or using any doors. But he was allowed to damage things. Any damage to be covered by the loser. Start time in 10 minutes. He went down to the parking garage and came back with a duffel bag. 3 - 2 -1 Start.

      He opened the duffel and came out with a small chain saw! Walked down the corridor, measured a distance from the back door. fired up the chainsaw, and within 1 minute had cut out a person size hole in the 2 layers of drywall between the corridor and as it happened, a photocopy room. Did it without even touching the back of the copier or its stand. Pushed said copier out of the way, and was sitting behind the CEO's desk in about 6 minutes total.

      To the complaint that he could never get away with doing that if it were a real burglary because of the noise involved, he plopped a box cutter on the desk.

      He got the contract. He even recommended his brother-in-law to fix the drywall. HE got the contract and did a good job too.

      Building security was not amused.

  4. msobkow Silver badge

    In University, we were notorious for filching snacks from the residence kitchen at night. They never did figure out we were just climbing through the ceiling and ignoring their ever-more-obstructive locks as they kept upgrading them to try to keep us out... :)

    They even dusted the window sills with flour to "figure out which window we were breaking in through." *LOL*

    1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      I once stayed somewhere there were double doors into the storage area for biscuits etc. Said doors were locked, but neither was bolted to the ground/frame, so you could just push them inwards, and then 'relock' by lining the lock up with the recess as you closed them again.

      They added expensive extra locks, but no bolts in the time I was there.

      1. Potty Professor Bronze badge

        I was the keyholder for the Motor Club garage at the university I was attending. We bought an expensive industrial padlock and hasp, but someone was still getting in and using the tools stored therein, but luckily, not nicking them. One night I spent a very uncomfortable 8 hours wrapped up in a sleeping bag sitting in my car on the opposite side of the car park. Around 2AM half a dozen students walked up to the garage and simply lifted the two doors, still locked together, up off their pintles and put them to one side. About an hour later they emerged, lifted the doors back onto the pintles, and walked away. Later that day, a mate of mine and I welded a nut onto the top of each pintle to stop the hinges being lifted off. Some time later, a very shame-faced student came up to me and asked if he could borrow the keys so that he could get his motorcycle out of the garage, where he had been working on it. Why he didn't just ask for the keys in the first place I will never know, he was perfectly entitled to use the club garage.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Warehouse containing Valuable Stuff close to a football ground. It wasn't usually staffed at the weekend.

          One weekend the network team went along to do some upgrades. They discovered some local ne'erdowells had lifted the gates off and were charging punters for parking.

    2. Arthur the cat Silver badge
    3. Imhotep Silver badge

      In the US, homeowners are resorting to multiple locks and steel doors.

      That are typically installed in walls composed of vinyl siding over .5" chipboard panels, fiberglass insulation and drywall.

      Ignoring windows, You can saw a new door for yourself in a couple of minutes - or just kick a hole through in the more extreme cases.

      1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        How widespread are brick veneer and double brick in the US? I get not using them in earthquake prone areas, but elsewhere?

        1. Dog11

          Not very common in most areas for residential or small commercial structures. Standard in places like Chicago, where building codes required it (due to Great Chicago Fire of 1871), and in areas (e.g. New Mexico) without many trees for lumber. In most of the US, wood is the predominant building material.

          1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            It's not as if it is a permanent country :-)

            1. jake Silver badge

              No country is permanent.

        2. jake Silver badge

          Brick veneer is common pretty much everywhere ... it's fairly cheap, ships well, is purely decorative, and non-structural.

          Actual brick is common wherever there are good clay deposits and earthquakes are few and far between.

          Essentially, housing is built of whatever is available locally that can withstand the conditions that mother nature throws at it. The Universal Building Code (UBC) spells it out in great detail.

          The US is a big place ... what might work well in SillyCon Valley probably isn't all that useful in Chicago or Albuquerque or Miami ... or it's really, really spendy to transport alternate materials. I've milled Redwood beams and other smaller boards for a custom SIP on timber-frame house built in Vermont. The all Redwood interior came out absolutely beautiful (if over-kill for my taste), is to code, and should last essentially forever ... but the family paid an arm and a leg in shipping charges.

          1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Thanks for the detailed answer.

            Just to be clear, by "brick veneer" I mean a timber (or metal) framed house surrounded by brickwork, rather than some kind of façade that merely looks like brickwork, although the brickwork still doesn't support most of the structure and is therefore also largely cosmetic (especially if you have wall cavity insulation).

            1. jake Silver badge

              Veneer brickwork.

              Most veneer brickwork is less than half an inch thick. Comes in "sheets" of maybe a dozen or two "bricks" that are installed at the same time, saving time (money). They even have corner pieces that preserve the illusion of being full bricks. Putting up full-sized brick where these faux versions will do the job does nothing but waste money.

              1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

                Re: Veneer brickwork.

                What can I say, Australians love brick. If a house here looks like brick from the outside then the bricks are real, even if they're only being used as a cosmetic veneer.

                And because they're outside any insulation, their value as thermal mass is also limited.

        3. Imhotep Silver badge

          In the areas I've lived in, for new construction a brick veneer on the front is the most common with vinyl siding for the sides and back.

          In New Mexico, there is a lot of faux adobe - stucco, instead of siding.

          1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

            Re: there is a lot of faux adobe - stucco, instead of siding

            Doesn't that require a lot of maintenance? Patching and stuff?

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: there is a lot of faux adobe - stucco, instead of siding

              "Doesn't that require a lot of maintenance?"

              No. In fact, none at all in the 60+ years my parents have owned theirs in Palo Alto. It's essentially a layer of concrete mixed with just enough fibers to reduce cracking, and the colo(u)red stone powder (usually off-white) of your choice.

              Easy to do, and inexpensive ... when my parent's house was built in the early 1950s, they framed a standard stud wall, threw a layer of roofing felt over it (40lb, I think), then a layer of what is essentially chicken wire, and then troweled about 3/8s of an inch of the concrete mix onto that. Texture as you see fit, wait for it to cure, and you're done.

              The result is weather and insect-proof, and does a fair job at keeping warm air either in or out in our mild climate. No need for paint (even on scratches, dings and dents), resists mildew (even on the North side), lasts virtually forever, and the entire house is on a slab foundation that "floats" in an earthquake, so it doesn't even crack.

              Yes, it is a boring expanse for a wall ... so the architects raised the visual appeal with door and window trim (LOTS of windows!), porches, roof lines, chimneys and the like. The whole is not altogether displeasing, in a tract house kind of way.

              1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

                Re: "Doesn't that require a lot of maintenance?"

                Apologies Jake, for my misleading comment. With my quirky humour I homed in on another usage of the word "adobe". I hope you agree that that does require lots of maintenance.

                1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

                  Re: "Doesn't that require a lot of maintenance?"

                  Adobe Render... flashy. :-)

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "They even dusted the window sills with flour..."

      Great opportunity to do something like leave fake footprints (cat, monkey, velociraptor, etc)

    5. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Recently read on this topic (and shame on you):

  5. Pete 2 Silver badge

    One man's ceiling is another man's floor

    > within a couple of minutes I had rebooted the FreeBSD server that ran DNS into single user mode, made the necessary modifications to the DNS files and restarted the server

    No doubt the half of management who were pleased had realised that the network team could be replaced by a lone individual with the right motivation. I assume the other half of the managment who were livid had just realised the same thing.

  6. chuBb. Silver badge

    Out of date building plans

    Once ended up about 25ft up on a step ladder hastily attached to a pallet on a smallish forklift to fix (well power cycle) a "vital" router connecting accounts to the rest of the lan to get payroll done.

    The comms cab used to be easily accessible before some bright spark decided to optimise the warehouse and have a mezzanine floor removed but neglected to involve site management or ops..., afterwards a large enough step ladder was purchased to access the cabinet, and an edict was issued to always consult ops and site management before undertaking "minor" changes like removing a floor. Of course the cabinet couldnt be moved due to lack of budget. It finally was moved following the warehouse being shut down for a week while a wasp infestation was dealt with. How did we find the wasp problem?, i was up my nearly tall enough ladder (i could reach but couldnt see) trying to install an extra switch in the cabinet but the thing wouldnt go in so an extra shove was needed *crunch* bzzzzzzzzzzzz and a cloud of wasps spew out of the bloody thing, never descended a ladder so quick in my life

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: Out of date building plans

      Reminds me of one of my favourite movie lines: "I got tired of coming up with last minute desperate solutions to impossible problems created by other fscking people."


      Bonus points for anyone who can remember the film/star without practicing their Google Fu!

      1. Mooseman Silver badge

        Re: Out of date building plans

        "Bonus points for anyone who can remember the film/star without practicing their Google Fu!"

        I got the right film but wrong character :)

      2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: Out of date building plans

        It's one of the Margaret Rutherford Miss Marples, but I can't remember which one.

      3. Mine's a Large One

        Re: Out of date building plans

        Tommy Lee Jones in Under Siege?

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Out of date building plans

        julie andrews in the sound of music?

      5. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Out of date building plans

        Carrie Symonds in BoJo Rabbit?

      6. chuBb. Silver badge

        Re: Out of date building plans

        Finger Mouse?

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Out of date building plans

          Sounds more like Bagpuss to me.

      7. jake Silver badge

        Re: Out of date building plans

        Star Trek & Shatner. Not the film, the TV show. All of them.

        OK, no need to yell, you're right, the films too,

    2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Out of date building plans

      I've done ~40ft up on a ladder from a farm forklift.

      One of those jobs that looks dangerous, but was actually perfectly safe - the forklift provided a much more reliable base than a ladder could on the ground.

      1. chuBb. Silver badge

        Re: Out of date building plans

        In a previous life spent some time doing industrial wiring, did same but with a proper access cage on the forks, the height wasn't the issue, problem was it was the middle of the summer in a WW2 corrogated steel aircraft hanger turned into a reconstituted stone factory, and everything was 2 inchs thick with coloured cement dust.

        Spent 2/3rds of the time on the ground cooling down, being hosed down and getting bollocked that the job was taking too long by the big boss, in the end i told him to get up there and show me how its done, after 10 mins, he was back down on the ground and arranging to finish up installing the highbay lights at night, was a double win because time and a half pay, and he bought me an ice cream, after he lightly cooked himself for 10 mins

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: Out of date building plans

        "~40ft up on a ladder from a farm forklift."

        The wife caught me doing that when I was wiring the lights on the ridge beam in the big arena.

        The budget suddenly included a boomlift.

        After eyeballing rental prices, I bought a used one. Has probably saved me over a hundred thousand dollars owning the thing over the years. The second most useful piece of equipment around here, after the two bobcats.

        1. ShadowSystems

          At Jake, re: Bobcats...

          How do you manage to get yours to stay inside the box for shipping to your victims? I've tried to lure them in with meat, tried to bribe them in with another 'cat in heat, and even tried threats to release their baby pics on Youtube, but I can never get them to get in the box.

          Once I figure out that step then I can work on mailing them to various folks as surprise birthday gifts. =-D

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Out of date building plans

      "Of course the cabinet couldnt be moved due to lack of budget"

      If you'd invoked H&S as to why you couldn't power cycle it and payroll had been held up you'd have discovered budget would have been immediately available.

      1. KBeee Silver badge

        Re: Out of date building plans

        I think modern Working at Height regulations now apply to any height above ground level. Probably get 10 years jail and a fine of £100,000 for doing that now.

        A couple of years ago I reported a non working light to the Council (it was about 3 metres/10 ft. above the ground), and was told they couldn't replace the bulb or tube because it would require a small pair of steps, and they had no one qualified for working at height available.

        1. pmb00cs

          Re: Out of date building plans

          In a previous job I underwent "Working at height" training that was identical to the training people that went up very tall ladders, or were hoisted up in cherry pickers, did because some of my colleagues needed to go three full steps up a step ladder. I however am moderately tall, so could reach without said step ladder. So I did the training for not needing a step ladder.

          I wish I was making it up.

          I did go up in a cherry picker in a different job, but that was working for a small business so no training was provided. So I suppose the training wasn't a total waste of time.

          1. Hazmoid

            Re: Out of date building plans

            In a previous job, I regularly got to ride cherry pickers and climb up high buildings to investigate and install wireless links. never been on a working at heights course but know how to put on and use a safety harness (thank you to the Scouts abseil team)

      2. chuBb. Silver badge

        Re: Out of date building plans

        I got a simultaneous bollocking and commendation from the H+S guy, happy he got paid upset i did what i did lol

    4. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Re: Out of date building plans

      O_O wait, mezzanine floor.

      Great thats the next thing to happen to me then.

      1. chuBb. Silver badge

        Re: Out of date building plans

        Much like you dont have a real hobby until a lathe in involved in it, same is true with netops, your not a real network guy until the buildings layout has changed beyond recognition of the documented floor plan...

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Out of date building plans

          "your not a real network guy until the buildings layout has changed beyond recognition of the documented floor plan..."

          Seeing as "as built" rarely coincides with the filed plans, that would be pretty much every building, no?

          1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

            Re: Out of date building plans

            Ah yes finding out a site was doing work when the fibre link is trashed when destroying a wall.

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: Out of date building plans

          the documented floor plan...

          After a few iterations quite often the characters 'o', 'c' and 'u' can be stricken from that second word, and an 'e' inserted.

    5. John70

      Re: Out of date building plans

      That took me back... Up in the air on a fork truck to get to a network panel...

  7. Steve Kerr

    Locked in at night

    I was doing some work late one evening for a bank in Newcastle, we finished about 10pm.

    In the huge foyer the length of the building, the customer said as I was a visitor, I had to go out via the main entrance and they would go out via the staff only revolving doors that had to be used with a staff pass.

    They duly left and I walked down to the main doors to find there was no-one there, main doors locked and the customer had legged it and I didn't have their mobile numbers to contact them to let me out.

    Waited there for 20 minutes thinking I was going to be there all night locked in at bank.

    Then I thought I heard music, thought I was hearing things it was so quiet, took me a few minutes to identify where it was coming from, had to go upstairs and pinpoint where it was coming from, found it finally when I found 2 guys replacing floor tiles at the other end. Told them what happened and asked if they had a pass that would get me out of the door.

    Finally made it out after being stuck for 30 minutes and still no security showed up - even waved my arms in the air a bit in case there was security monitoring cameras!

    The customer did laugh the following day and said that should have probably made sure I could get out before they left!

    Fun times

    1. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

      Re: Locked in at night

      Where I used to work, I was often the last person to leave the buildings and lock up. I had a policy of checking every building before locking it and setting the alarm (the buildings weren't large). Occasionally, you would find someone in deep-thought unaware that everyone else had left. No-one should be left alone in a building without at least knowing they are the last one there.

      When the staff get older, there is an increasing chance that they may need attention. I'll declare a personal interest in this.

    2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: Locked in at night

      I've been stuck in the service stairwell in a bank's high rise after following a manager's explicit instructions. After hours, no-one on any floor, no way back out. In desperation, I descended 30-odd floors, no way out on the ground floor, eventually about three floors below ground level there was a loading dock, kettle, sofa, and night security sitting around having a cuppa, all within sight of the doors to the stairs. They jumped a mile when I knocked on the window, because no-one had told them we were in the building.

      I think that one was the first major security audit I triggered in my career - I shouldn't even have been in the building without a proper pass that would have let me out of the stairwell, it was a serious problem.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Locked in at night

        I used to work in a university office in Edinburgh which was supposed to be locked up and alarm set at 9pm. However the security company who did the final check and set the alarm (a) often arrived anything up to an hour early and (b) rarely bothered to check the building as they were supposed to.

        As a result I set off the alarm on several occasions while leaving. The first time I was good and rang a keyholder. Thereafter, the problem having been left unsolved, I just thought "Fuck it" and walked away. Not my problem.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Locked in at night

          My most exciting adventure of the sort was being locked in the old Medical Engineering building in Oxford one evening. I went out as normal and set the alarm off. And what an alarm. They occasionally did some animal work there (on sheep which were returned unharmed to the fields from which they had come) and since it was at the height of ALF terrorism against Colin Blakemore and his group, any building doing animal work was very seriously protected.

          A remarkable number of police cars and university staff arrived very quickly, and I was asked in considerable detail just what the hell I was doing. Luckily my explanation held up and after a while I was allowed to go. The researcher who set the alarm without bothering to check that the place was empty came in for a little more criticism, I believe.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Locked in at night

          I was working on a customer site installing a new mainframe. I'd parked my car in the site car park each day with no issue and always mad sure that I left before the carp park closing time.

          One night finishing close to the deadline of 9pm I bid the security guard goodnight and walked to the car park only to find it was locked.

          Getting back to reception I asked the security guard if he had locked up early, yes he said but its after 9pm now so I'm not unlocking it.

          There was no point in getting angry so I just asked for his name explaining that I'd be staying in the local luxury hotel and my comp[any would be billing his CEO for the overnight stay, including a lovey meal and a few beers. Then there would be an additional days consultancy as I wouldn't be able to get to my office as planned the following day.

          Needless to say he then agreed to let me retrieve my car.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Locked in at night

            You were too kind. Just having the name and following through with the plan without explanation would have been a better learning experience for him.

      2. DougMac

        Re: Locked in at night

        Due to fire-code, there should always be a way to get out of a stairwell. Probably at the bottom on the ground floor, well away from any secure areas.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Locked in at night

          The bottom of the stairwell is the BOFHs lair. If you make it that far, getting out of the building is likely the least of your problems!

        2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

          Re: Locked in at night

          I was wondering how long before that came up. Many of the situations described should have resulted in a business version of the icon - an incident report should have been filed detailing how the situation was a hazard to life and a breach of health and safety laws or fire regulations in most places.

    3. KBeee Silver badge

      Re: Locked in at night

      I once had a job to do in the basement of the Ritz hotel in London.

      Finished the job about 15:30, went up to the ground floor to leave, and found nobody there and the doors locked. Shouted a bit - no one came. Tried to hunt around the ground floor for an emergency exit, but many of the doors along the corridors were locked preventing much movement, no phone reception either.

      Eventually found an unlocked door that lead to the little garden square in the centre of the building (never even knew the Ritz had such a thing). Finally able to call my office, and tell them to call the Ritz to let me out. About half an hour later 2 security guys came out to the garden, checked my ID and escorted me to an exit.

      I asked them what was happening and was told George Bush was in the hotel for an overnight stop before flying on to somewhere else, so they were locked down.

      Also got stuck in Madame Tussauds once, and a Major Credit Cards offices on a Christmas Eve...

      1. Dave559 Silver badge

        Re: Locked in at night

        "Also got stuck in Madame Tussauds once"

        I think that would give me a genuine nightmare! Waxworks are always a little disturbing in any case, but after hours, at night, in an empty(?) building, with possibly just basic night security lighting on? No thanks!

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: "Also got stuck in Madame Tussauds once"

          One of the guys in our class at Polytechnic managed to get a cleaning job there... cleaning the Chamber of Horrors. The worst bit was cleaning Hitler's display case, which was invariably coated with spit.

        2. KBeee Silver badge

          Re: Locked in at night

          The place I had to get to was in the Chamber of Horrors in the basement. The walls were painted black, and you had to open a black painted panel to expose a normal door which lead to a swtchroom, which you passed through to get to where I needed to work.

          An employee must've seen the door open and the switchroom lights on, but instead of shouting out or checking if anyone was in there, they turned off the light and locked the door.

          When I tried to get out I wondered why the lights were now off, but I had a torch amongst my tools, so I went over and turned the lights back on, then couldn't open the door.

          Banging on the door and shouting did no good - I think the black painted panel outside must have made a pretty good sound-proofing device. Luckily my phone had enough reception to be able to call for help.

    4. NXM Bronze badge

      Re: Locked in at night

      I lost track of time and got locked in to Kew Gardens once. I used the intercom on the gate to ask someone to let me out. The bloke who arrived a few minutes later said it happened all the time.

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: The bloke who arrived a few minutes later said it happened all the time.

        Did you have to grease his palm?

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: The bloke who arrived a few minutes later said it happened all the time.


          Oh, wait, wrong forum ...

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Locked in at night

      I was distracted leaving work (had been debiugging some network problem - ARCnet hated unterminated connections) and thus made the mistake of getting in a lift late Friday while there was nobody left in the building (force of habit), and the damn thing malfunctioned between floors. Never happened before, and never happened since..

      Thankfully I was one of the few in those days to already have a mobile phone (a nice compact NEC P3 because I hated the Motorola brick as it was mainly used by showoffs), and much to my amazement and relief I was able to contact the fire brigade which took about an hour to come in (the joy of being in Central London) and drop the lift to a floor and let me out. Otherwise it would have been a very long weekend for me.

      An emergency phone was fitted within a week.

  8. technos

    Careful with that axe, Eugene!

    I went out to a restaurant to reboot a router, only to find it was behind a thick wooden door that no one had the key to.

    Not a big deal, the hinges were facing outwards.

    On my way out the door to my truck for a hammer and punch, I mentioned the locked door to a bartender and told him I'd be back. I didn't end up needing them, because by the time I made it back the he had opened the door for me.

    With a fire axe. And boy, did he look happy with himself.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Careful with that axe, Eugene!

      One fine day Facilities saw fit to upgrade the door to our computer room with a code lock but didn't upgrade our knowledge with the required code, as we weren't supposed to enter that room (we were).

      No matter, the door opened outwards, and this was one of those mechanical code locks where the door knob only engages the latch bolt after entering the 4-digit code. So opening the door would only require flipping the bolt, and the hook on the serrated knife of a Leatherman Charge does that job perfectly.

  9. What? Me worry?


    Is your name not Bruce, then?

    1. Victor Ludorum

      Re: Dave?!

      I get the feeling he was called Bruce, but the Regomiser changed it to Dave.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Dave?!


        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Dave?!

          So why do they call you Dave then ?

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Dave?!

            Because Dave's not here, man ... any fule nos that.

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Dave?!

      "I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that."

  10. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    we can't shake the image of ...

    ... Bruce Willis clambering through a duct in Die Hard ...

    No, definitely more like Tom Cruise in the first Mission: Impossible. Didn't even hurt himself by hitting the floor, did he?

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: we can't shake the image of ...

      The floor was made of water and he was a hydrophobic wizard?

  11. Keith Oborn

    Facebook and an angle grinder--

    Nuff said.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Facebook and an angle grinder--

      No, not nearly enuff

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Facebook and an angle grinder--

        I see the components of a joke here about two straight lines getting together through Grindr. But I can't be bothered to assemble them. Bisection curious? I dunno.

      2. Dave559 Silver badge
  12. slimshady76
    IT Angle

    Not in the same league...

    ... but once, at the start of the century, I was on a biking trip with some other friends. We arrived our destination only to discover most of the rental lodges/apartments were already taken (there was a popular mountain race series happening that very weekend, and we didn't know). We wandered through the town until we found a house with a small hand-written "cabin for rent" sign. The family had built a small cabin in their backyard, and were happy to rent it to our small group for the weekend.

    We disembarked, assembled the bikes, went out for a taste of the mountain, and came back at the evening. Even shared some beers with our landlord, and he offered his adjacent machine shop to hold our bikes for the night. We then went to sleep early, to better use the remaining two days.

    But upon waking up in Saturday, we found the whole family had left, leaving our bikes trapped inside the machine shop. They didn't answer the phone, and we began to lament our choice, when I noticed the big sliding door at the back of the machine shop could be dislodged from its rail. So we picked up the thinnest of our riding crew and sent him through the gap between the big sliding door and the wall, while the other four yanked the door off the rails. He then opened a window, we got the bikes out of the shop, and then closed both the window and the sliding door. High fives abounded, and we headed for the trails.

    At noon our phones started ringing like crazy, as the landlord and his family returned home and thought our bikes were stolen. We rode back to the house, explained what happened and offered an apology. He started laughing, and told us our little Tom Cruise moment made him rethink his machine shop security, has he had quite a bit of expensive equipment in there.

    Luckily it all ended in good terms. We grilled an abusive amount of meat that night, and invited our circumstancial landlords to dinner as an apology. And we came back to rent their cabin many times in the years that followed.

    Icon because the anecdote would be better suited in a MTB site -->

    1. KBeee Silver badge

      Re: Not in the same league...

      We had to deliver some heavy plant once.

      To get the plant from the low loader to the access point on the pavement we had to remove the railings that ran along the kerbside. When we got there on a Saturday morning, someone had chained their bike to the railings. We removed the railings + bike, and delivered the plant. When we put the railings back we put them the other way round so the bike was now chained roadside instead of pavement side.

      I wish I'd been there to see the cyclists face when they returned to get their bike. I can imagine them thinking "I'm SURE I didn't leave the bike there..."

    2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Not in the same league...

      Icon because the anecdote would be better suited in a MTB site -->

      It qualifies as IT ... Interesting Times ;)

  13. TeeCee Gold badge

    1) HR / Payroll office has a buzzlock in addition to the usual keys 'n such so that the door is always locked. Said buzzlock runs on low DC volts and has a power adaptor plugged into the wall. Guess where the cleaner elected to plug in the hoover one evening?

    Cue "headless chickens" as HR manager and all her staff stand in the corridor with facilities discussing locksmiths. Two heroes arrive, in the shape of myself and a colleague, carrying the All Areas Access Tool (a screwdriver). We dig the screwdriver into the placcy trim around the frosted glass in the partition wall, whip it out, remove the glass, climb through. open the door and then put everything back together afterwards.

    Cue much whingeing about HR security not being up to snuff. Ho hum.

    2) I've mentioned this one before. Same building. Post Room on third floor, which is locked OOH. The lock is a "nightlatch" type and the door opens outwards (smart readers will know where this is going).

    One day, some utter Herbert leaves the keys in the Post Room, meaning the whole third floor is locked out. The bloke who runs the Post Room has a spare set at home, but he's in Alicante for two weeks (oops!).

    After much whingeing from everyone involved I rock up with two screwdrivers and "inch" the latch across in all of ten seconds.

    Boss: "How did you do that so quickly? This is supposed to be secure!"

    Me: "The smoking room and coffee machine are in there and as you well know, I often have to do the magic technical stuff OOH."

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      I once worked in an office with a similar night latch and outward opening door arrangement, although it was only used during the day if reception wasn't manned, at night there was a deadbolt.

      I usually found it quicker and easier to use a credit card to open it rather than fumble around with the key!

  14. HammerOn1024

    It Turns Out

    "It turns out that the correct solution did not involve jumping the partition."

    Well gosh network team, since you knew this move was happening, you should have had one of your folks stick around to help if there was an issue.

    Since you didn't, and no one on your team bothered to communicate this mythical correct solution, I did what was necessary.

    Deal with it. And now... coffee.

    Quite honestly, I would have given no fucks.

  15. aerogems Bronze badge


    I was getting all excited for a story of someone getting stuck in the ceiling, or at least the server room, and then hilarity ensuing. Booooooo!

    (I am joking, in case it's not obvious)

  16. chivo243 Silver badge

    We learned early on!

    Internally, any new door or locking system (think codes), needs to be documented, copies (keys) needed in three locations. My former colleagues and I were authorized, we were IT!! We even had the phone number of the Security supervisor for after hours needs. He lived very near by which came in handy on more than one occasion!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's see, I've done the pop ceiling tiles routine at least twice. Also hopped over a 6' tall office partition (was dividing two halves of an office, each half had a door to a common hallway, IT dept. set of keys only opened one door). Luckily, there were filing cabinets on each side of the partition, that made the climb easier.

    Also once had to log into a PC during overnight maintance and found that the user locked their keyboard in their desk drawer cuz "security" (this was before remote desktop was a thing, so local login only). Rather than trudge all the way back to misson control to grab a spare, I picked the drawer lock. That user also added their own BIOS password (for boot and settings) so I cracked the case and reset the password. I did re-lock their desk. I don't remember if I put a new BIOS password in place.

    In later years I learned that if you encounter users like that, you should be concerned about what documents they have stored on their PC.

  18. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    What do you do?

    I did a lot of work on vacation rental properties in London (before broadband became as reliable as it is now). A senior Intel director (I won't embarrass him by mentioning his name) was staying in a property and broadband wasn't working. He said however that he felt quite at home as problems were similar to those in California. The problem was that this was someone's home, and they had locked one room away as being private. You can guess where the router was. We felt that this was like one of those management games where we had to come up with a solution with a few cornflake packets and a fairy liquid bottle... oh, that was Blue Peter... One solution we seriously considered was to knock the mains socket power off at the equipment cabinet (the usual Windows solution but on a grander scale). As we were poised to do this the owner rang to say one of her relatives was on their way down to unlock the door.

    Another flat was rented by a Scandinavian professor. Poor chap worked for a university that had locked his laptop down so much that the bits squeaked. He couldn't get the wifi to work because of this and his tech backup wasn't cooperating. I made the tail wag the dog by configuring the router to mimic his office environment, which worked. I had to revisit the property at the end of his stay so that it worked for the next tenant.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Learned the hard way..

    Learned the hard way not to do the up-and-over ceiling tiles while drunk.

    Got a scar on the leg to remind me (when the ceiling collapsed)

  20. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Back in the old days ...

    ... when I worked at Boeing, one of my jobs was to provide technical support for shop floor automated test equipment (ATE).

    One day, I get a call from a factory manager. "We can't update the ATE with the new tests. It will not connect to the network." So I hiked over (laptop in hand) and verified that the network drop next to the ATE was in fact inoperative. The IT department was in the bad habit of provisioning a new network drop by checking the (full) switch and unplugging an existing drop which was not in use. Which quite often happened to be the one for our ATE, since it didn't stay powered up at all times. A quick call to the IT help desk and they said they'd send someone out. In 24 hours.

    The factory manager was not entirely pleased with this situation, being in the building planes end of the business. But he was a pretty laid back guy. When I explained that I could easily fix the situation myself if I could only get into the locked network room, he said "Give me the phone."

    Quite calmly, he explained the situation to the IT help desk and stated that the Boeing fire department was just downstairs and they would be more than happy to open the door with a fire axe. The turn-around time on that ticket was reduced to 15 minutes.

  21. Jilara

    Brute force options

    In 1989, I was working at a large Silicon Valley semiconductor company when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit. (As an aside, I was in the department office at the time, and can attest that it much resembled the special effects of the Enterprise bridge under fire.) The wafer fab was immediately below us and as we headed down the stairs, evacuating after the shaking subsided, we heard people screaming. The screaming came from the big security doors to the fab floor.

    What seemed to have happened was that when the quake started, all the security doors slammed shut and locked securely, and could not be opened without a secure electronic code---and the electricity was out and there was no battery backup. Two of the techs used a fire ax to break through the door to get people out of the fab floor.

    One of them later told me he'd pulled enough cables for the fab that he had a backup plan in case that didn't work. It would have been more difficult, but getting people out through the crawl space was definitely possible.

  22. Hazmoid

    Locked my car keys in the office one night as I was heading out. As the last on site I also had a gate key and the alarm code :( So I did what any prepared IT guy does, and opened the door using my Leatherman. (Latch was a sliding lock on an outward opening door).

    I have also thought that it was crazy having high security on a comms room door when the wall next to the door consists of plasterboard and insulation.

    Most of the electric locks I have seen let go when the power goes out or the fire alarm is triggered. Except at one Government Office I worked at (State Herbarium) in which the collection storage (multiple wings on multiple floors) had CO2 dump systems and the locks triggered on fire alarm . Spread thoughout the storage were breathing masks that would allow you enough O2 to get to the door and exit. locks had to be released from the fire panel for fire fighters to enter.

  23. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Air gapped

    Admin: You need the change your access group for that door. Security's tight now.

    Me: (clenching fist between door frame and door handle while sliding badge up the door's gap): Nah, it still lets me in.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Flip the breaker.

    In a previous life I worked for a large British Telco. We had a secure comms room for all the local networking equipment, accessible only by RFID card (which was a fairly new fangled invention at the time).

    I had gone to this building with a colleague and was asked to make a few changes, which was within my authority, but lo and behold had left my RFID card in my bag in my car at another building many miles away - Because the RFID cards were new and expensive, they were issued separately to the magstripe access cards for general building security. I had just popped along to sit in on a meeting, so didn’t think I needed it.

    Anyway, apparently this change was urgent, and I was the only person competent to do it nearby, so how do I get into the secure room?

    In the utility closet next to the room was a panel of circuit breakers, and one of the breakers had the non-network equipment sockets for the comms room and the utility room (for plugging in vacuum cleaners and laptops) and also, the hulking great magnetic door lock! Flip the switch, prop open the door, flip the switch back.

    Security indeed. Posted anon because while I no longer work for the company, they do still use that building, and I don’t know if it’s still the case that the comms room is so easily broken into.

    1. dubious

      Re: Flip the breaker.

      similar here - new server room with fancy pants biometric locks, or alternatively, open the cleaning store next to the server room door and unplug the security controller and all the doors fail open.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bank Security

    Many many moons ago (1990 in fact) I was working part time at a local bank doing filing and what-not in the loan securities dept (You know, where the stuff you secure your loan with gets kept. Gold/Stock sertificates and the like).

    The combination on most (99%+) "High Security Cabinets" was the factory default of 10-20-30-40.....

    When the bank got amalgamated with a few other banks a while later, I got the job of getting all the securities documents from one of the other banks (this was mostly for motor loans) and bring them (and file them) at our offices.

    Get to the other banks site and naturally all the cabinets are locked and there is nobody there who knows the combination. I thought to myself "Surely not".... Guess what. It surely was. I was able to open 20 out of 21 cabinets with the SAME damn combination (to the absolute HORROR of the branch manager).

    There were some erm "firm" words spoken about security the next day apparently :)

    Good times.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It may have been somewhat easier to put a secondary ip on a device on the same subnet work or vlan and simply connect via the original IP to make any changes.

  27. PRR

    My storage cubby was good wire-mesh, but in a very odd corner of a non-square building. There was a gap, but nobody could fit through there.

    One weekend a few thousand bucks of stuff walked out.

    Some turned-up at the local pawn shop. Clues were taken.

    The primary culprit was a very large man, but he had a very small clever child.

  28. kcaine

    Brainfart on missing 'expensive' equipment

    In the early 2000's, I was quite used to getting hammered at work after hours while finishing proposals and tenders due the next day. During one of these late night "benders", I remembered an expensive piece of equipment that I hadn't returned to the bosses office for safe-keeping. This equipment was definitely needed the next morning for a multi million presentation. I hunted the office, my personal vehicle and even drove home to check it wasn't there, but by 3am I hadn't found the missing equipment. Eventually I thought (in a still hungover state), that I needed to check that it wasn't in the bosses office somehow... So, I broke in through the ceiling tiles (I thought afterwards about the poor security, but I was on a "mission"). Being a "little bit under the weather", it did not occur to me that I had left big shoe marks and fingerprints all over the place. Having seen that the boss must've seen the equipment in my office and put it away for safe-keeping, I relaxed and exited his office... But I didn't replace the ceiling tiles, or get rid of any evidence... The following morning I arrived at work at normal time, now sober from the events of the previous evening, only to find the place crawling with police! Although nothing was missing, there are a lot of confidential files in a bosses office, so the heat was on! I had to walk in and sheepishly admit my antics of the previous evening, and luckily my boss understood my concern and the fact that I was working late on such a serious project... If I didn't have decent bosses I might have easily have ended up in jail for such a silly escapade.

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