back to article Boss installed software from behind the Iron Curtain, techies ended up Putin things back together

Welcome once again, comrades, to On-Call, The Register's celebration of the tech proletariat's struggles with oppression by bourgeois bosses – and the eventual triumph of the workers! That reason for that burst of revolutionary language will hopefully become apparent in this week's tale, which features a reader we'll Regomize …

  1. Lil Endian Silver badge

    Bah! Bloody bosses! This is why proper BOFHs install their own "monitoring" utilities and don't cave in to demands for all-access just "because I might need it". If the boss persists, a new one can be... socially engineered!

    Nice one Simon, I was a party member at the first paragraph!

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      Wait, you've confused me... Simon T writes BOFH, we just read On Call by Simon S. I need another cuppa... or maybe time to skip right over to a beer!

      1. Lil Endian Silver badge

        Not intentional - just my read on the story :)

        Here, allow me -->

        1. chivo243 Silver badge

          Gladly accepted! Have one on me!

          1. Will Godfrey Silver badge


            A suspicious amount of beer-ding going on here.

            1. Lil Endian Silver badge


              That scared me, thought they were calling last orders already!

              (Cheers chivo :)

              [Well, it's shaping up to be a productive day! This is why commenting code is important, come Monday I won't have a clue what I was trying to do!]

              1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

                Re: Ding!

                We do not install Russian software, I just deleted DHL Invoice Details _pdf.rar after the email was quarantined.

                1. LateAgain

                  Re: Ding!

                  Hiding the file extension is yet another Microsoft contribution to studity.

                2. bernmeister

                  Re: Ding!

                  Good action. As a matter of principal I delete anything from DHL. I dont use DHL so they have no need to contact me. A guy in the same office as me opened up a DHL invoice which started a ransom wear attack on our server.

      2. disgruntled yank

        No, in the BOFH version, it is the boss that ends up chopped into fragments.

        1. Terje

          I'm not to sure, the lack of concrete pours seems to have reduced the amount of bosses that decide to move to another country without telling anyone about it and ever contacting anyone again to decrease to the point that adequate fear may be lost from both bosses and HR!

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            It's worth keeping in mind that, if a boss needs to be killed, that's work for the BOFH. If the boss has to pay the BOFH and go away, that's not work. It's logical to encourage not having to use violence just for laziness. As for the fear levels, I don't think there's any way for them to fall low enough for any risk to arise; the duo have already destroyed so many people that it's hard to imagine how people could forget.

        2. mirachu

          Small, medium and large fragments, like Goldilocks?

  2. b0llchit Silver badge

    Yes, where is my cluestick. It needs to be firmly attached to the Boss while I open the window.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Preferably applied with copious use of a baseball bat...

      1. b0llchit Silver badge

        It is called LART, also known as L)user A)ttitude R)eadjustment T)ool.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge

      I prefer the Clue by Four..

      my son prefers the Shusher from the movie 'Home'.

    3. EVP Silver badge

      If this has happened in today’s Russia, the boss had committed suicide by jumping out of an hospital window, seventeenth floor, three times,

  3. Bebu

    cyrillic disk label?

    Пвнд! Фул.

    I wonder whether the software actually worked? History would suggest that would be a silly question.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: cyrillic disk label?

      Never mind history - everything I know about software screams that that is not merely silly, but even a meaningless question.

      What do you mean, "works"? There seems to be good evidence that it ran some processes on the systems it was installed on, so... yes, that's one level of "works". Another level would be "did it correctly report whatever it was supposed to report?" - but here we run into trouble, because the monitoring software actually had a big effect of its own on how people spent their time, so the information reported wouldn't have been a fair picture anyway, even if it was absolutely correct. And "was it well enough documented - in a language in which the user was fluent - for them to correctly understand what it reported?" That bit seems very unlikely.

      Then we can start considering questions like security, privacy, stability...

      How far down the user's mental picture of "what this software can do for me" would we get, before it failed to deliver? I'm thinking not very far at all.

      1. Killfalcon Silver badge

        Re: cyrillic disk label?

        This sort of thing tends to run hard into Goodhart's Law -

        When a metric becomes a target, it ceases to be a god metric.

  4. El blissett

    Just goes to show that in IT we have always been at war with Eurasia...

    1. Wally Dug

      Eurasia? I thought it was Eastasia we were at war with.

      Hang on, someone's at the door...

      1. TimMaher Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re:- someone at the door

        Don’t worry. It’s only Julia.

    2. bpfh Silver badge

      Shirley you mean Elbonia?

      At least according to Dilbert.

  5. trevorde Silver badge

    Accidentally writing malware

    Used to work for a company where our product was regularly flagged as a virus by various virus scanners (McAfee, I'm looking at you!). We had to report it as a false positive so our users (FBI, CIA, MI5/6, GCHQ et al) didn't have kittens when they installed the new release.

    1. Lil Endian Silver badge

      Re: Accidentally writing malware

      Yeah, McAfee... hmmmm. Back when "Winston" was pulling cables it was F-PROT for us - good stuff that. I still have the stacks of floppies that made up my virus zoo for testing the various AV flavours.

      1. ske1fr

        Re: Accidentally writing malware

        I was sad when F-Prot was discontinued by its new owners, but by then I wasn't personally using Windows systems.

  6. Korev Silver badge

    > techies ended up Putin things back together

    A pint for the excellent pun -->

  7. chivo243 Silver badge

    It came to pass

    Back in the mists of antiquity, a company I worked for had an IT department with out a direct boss, the company added D levels for all departments, IT included. The new Director was a nice enough guy, and I was able to enforce some sanity under his stint with the company. D levels never got any admin privs...

  8. Lil Endian Silver badge

    Virus Recovery - 90's Style

    In the early 90s we were a small, but national and unique[1] hardware maintenance company. I was the software department.

    An engineer had RTBed a client's PC with a virus on it, a nasty MBR critter. The drive was going to be written off, none of the tools available could handle it. Knowing this I suggested to engineering I have a pop at it. I didn't want to rebuild the MBR manually and risk getting the parameters wrong. The boss, although he trusted me, was still only just keeping his composure as I formatted the drive, followed by a data recovery. I, of course, had the utmost of confidence. Honest! Job done, and in the future the engineers were "no probs" to clients with virus problems.

    Don't try this at home kids!

    (Don't crucify me, times have changed!)

    [1] I'm not going to say why we were unique, someone might be watching!

    1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

      Re: Virus Recovery - 90's Style

      As an old boss used to say to me - just remember, you are unique and special, just like everyone else.

      1. Lil Endian Silver badge

        Unique & Special

        Ma? Ma, is that you?

  9. DenTheMan

    Watch out for the next new fake OS..

    ....Windup 11.

  10. nichomach

    "I picked up this copy of Microsoft Project in Hong Kong on a market - can you install it for me?"

    "'re a funny guy - NO!"

    1. J. Cook Silver badge


      It's almost as funny as being asked to install the volume licensed copy of Office on someone's personal machine 'because they do work on it'.

      They didn't like my response of "sure, that'll be $50,000 please." When asked why so much (in an offended tone, of course!) my response was "that's my annual salary plus having to pay the fines for pirating software, and that's being on the low end of the amount..." I did mention to them that the local software store had the student and home edition for $100 and covered three installs, though.

  11. Red Ted
    Big Brother

    Winston's comrade

    I'm trusting that the comrade was called "Julia"?

    1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

      Re: Winston's comrade

      Collect the entire (Julia) set!

      1. Freddie

        Re: Winston's comrade

        I wouldn't; they're a tad unpredictable!

  12. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Only time

    I've been monitered is 4 jobs ago....

    Where the boss under the guise of 'security' put up multiple CCTVs across the factory, with the assurance that they were security cameras, and NOT cameras so he could moniter the workforce and what we did.

    Until one of us noticed that a camera turned on (flashing red led) and turned to follow an employee as he went to the tool store.....

    "Comrade.... you have been wrecking socialist production targets by sneaking away for a smoke... As an ememy of the owner , do you have anything to say before 9mm revolutionary justice is applied "

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Only time

      The "production target" thing was caused by the wholesale introduction of modern scientific management methods in the 1920s. Its become a staple cliche of "communism" but the reality is that management by numbers rules your life today. The only difference between them back then and us now is that production targets today are "never enough, do more" and if you meet or exceed them then it means that someone's redundant on the shop floor. (Alternatively, we get you on a Zero Hours contract and only call you in to work when we need you to earn us some more money.)

      By the time this piece refers to the software was likely written as a side job by a bunch of programmers looking to earn some extra cash. The Soviet Union was a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity (paradoxically enough) because it was the only way to get anything done. During this time you could get high quality programming work done for peanuts "over there".

  13. Matter_of_Perspective

    When they own the business............

    Back in the early 00's I implemented an internet filter to prevent people from getting to bad websites, downloading virus's and such.

    Imagine my pleasure reading the reports of all the nasty websites and content that had been blocked across the UK organisation keeping the users safe........

    Queue a visiting Chairman from head office from elsewhere, I get told to go to his office immediately expecting a jolly good pat on the back instead this guy starts screaming and shouting at me that he could get porn to work on his laptop and for me to fix it immediately.

    Ah the memories!

    1. EVP Silver badge

      Re: When they own the business............

      You could’ve told the guy that installing the filter was requested by his wife. When he would’ve continued screaming, you would’ve asked “Shall we go and ask her?”

      1. EarthDog

        Re: When they own the business............

        I'm the type that doesn't say anything, I just tell the wife. If you've ever experienced karma catching up with you and you have no idea how it could've happened, it might have been one of us.....

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can't recall anyone bringing home anything nasty from a business, trip, but I do remember some weird stuff coming back - like a fellow who took a picture of an unusual vending machine on his jaunt to Japan. There, nestled among the machines selling Kit-Kat bars and Cola was one selling used teenage girls underwear in tubes!

    Takes all kinds, eh?

    1. EVP Silver badge

      Ummm, I can recall of a couple of guys who brought something nasty home from their business trips… like bugs, one could say. Their mistresses didn’t appreciate much the debugging procedure.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The used underwear was probably produced by putting them on dogs in heat. That’s the way they do it. You’re free to puke as you please. Kids, don’t buy “used teenage underwear” in tubes.

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

        We need a

        'vomit' icon

      2. heyrick Silver badge

        My mind boggles over what the hell demographic they're aiming this sort of thing at.

        Note: rhetorical question, do NOT poke that Reply button...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Offending machines

      I've seen plenty of public beer vending machines in Japan - which by law automatically stop dispensing at night after a certain hour - yet one of the buttons remains "accidentally" lit and active as an informal work around. However I've never seen the aforementioned used underwear vending machines - perhaps I wasn't spending enough time in Kabukicho.

      1. Johnb89

        Re: Offending machines

        Then you ask the Japanese 'But these machines, they are just out in the street. Aren't they used by children?'

        Blank look. 'Of course not. They're not allowed to.' is the answer.

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