back to article Your security failure was so bad we have to close the company … NOT!

Welcome once again, gentle reader, to the safe space we call Who, Me? in which Reg readers can confess to the naughty or not-quite-competent things they did at work, knowing they will not be judged. Or will they? This week meet a man we'll Regomize as "Thaddeus". Thaddeus was the chief technical officer of an organization a …

  1. Sam not the Viking


    Our boss inadvertently filled his (company) car with the wrong fuel. He tried to keep it secret but we were too clever for that. We were also impish so he didn't know that we knew.....

    Smallish office and it was my turn to make the teas and coffee. The boss always had coffee.....

    I 'inadvertently' made him a cup of hot chocolate and when he stepped out of his office to query the mistake I replied: "Oh no! I haven't poured the wrong drink have I?"

    His eyes rose towards the ceiling as he realised he had fallen for the ruse and the resultant laughter all round only served to compound his embarrassment. He was a good sport and although he threatened a reprisal he became very wary of stepping into another trap. But that's another story.

    1. Confucious2

      Re: Refuelling

      I didn’t need to prank my boss, he did a good enough job himself.

      He was late for work one day and we eventually got it out of him.

      He had recently bought a 911 and went to the petrol station, filled up with petrol and the car wouldn’t start. He called the AA who had to take him and the car back to his house.

      No problem, he just took the nanny’s car, went to the same petrol station and filled up with petrol.

      The problem was, the nanny’s car was diesel.

      I’m not sure how the AA man kept a straight face as he was called to the same petrol station by the same man for a second time.

      We certainly didn’t keep straight faces.

  2. ChoHag Silver badge

    We know you exaggerate these stories but please...

    > Thaddeus says the police eventually realized that Max's brother wasn't actually up to any ill, and returned all the computer equipment. They even fixed the door and apologized.

    ... don't just straight-up lie.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why should it be a lie? I find the police in our area to be very friendly, whilst also being quite firm when needed. I recall a situation where a house was raided in error and they were very apologetic. OK, it’s a rural area and, whilst policing has become less localised, there are plenty of officers who believe their role is to serve the public. I know of another case, in the nearby city, where they had broken a door in to gain entry, but ensured it was made secure before leaving.

      Yes, no police force is perfect, as the role will attract people who see it as an opportunity to wield power, but the vast majority (in my experience) are not like that. The times when everything works as it should isn’t newsworthy. For example, the local paper will report a fight breaking out in a street, but not the 100’s of streets where one didn’t; the police officers who intervene in incidents that don’t then escalate rarely get a mention. The media fill a valuable and essential role, but also need to accept a degree of responsibility for normalising the problems. If you see the media full of fights, etc., you begin to accept that as expected. But good news doesn’t sell papers/clicks and the associated advertising revenue.

      <rant/> now for the downvotes…

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Near where I live in the US, a local-government employee, on duty, driving a local-government vehicle, caused an accident. He even admitted it was his fault. But the local government is claiming immunity and refusing to pay for the repairs to the victim's car. They're not denying it's their responsibility, just saying they refuse to pay and they can't be sued for it.

    2. MrBanana Silver badge

      The current state of policing seems pretty dire as reported by the media, but these stories are mostly from a time past where most cops were good cops. So I don't immediately see this story as a lie. Unless you have proof to the opposite?

    3. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      For reference: Where do you live? If it is the US: Where within the US? Not Baltimore, I hope.

    4. emfiliane

      FWIW, insane as it sounds, LAPD has a dedicated door replacement department, for all the times they fuck up and go to the wrong place or act on an invalid tip. Someone somewhere finally crunched the numbers and figured out it's cheaper than being sued constantly, and probably much cheaper that actually reforming the department.

      No idea how it works in other places, but that's at least one known-terrible agency that will still do this.

    5. Wzrd1

      >... don't just straight-up lie.

      Yep, in my country, the police would apologize by fixing the door via thrown incendiary grenades through it.

    6. Bitbeisser

      Why would this be a lie? It just makes it clear that this didn't happen in the US of A...

  3. b0llchit Silver badge

    Upside down images

    Many, many (really many) moons ago...

    One day my boss went on a ski holiday. I, as the sysop and netadmin, went about to install a transparent squid proxy and configured the network to route any and all web request through the proxy. But only his computer's request were run through the proxy.

    Squid was configured to intercept all image request (jpg and png), which would be retrieved using a special script. The script would mirror some images so they appeared upside-down. Not all images were altered, but progressively more were altered and mirrored.

    The boss returned and started to show images of his ski performance.

    • Day one would change 10% images. Not many, but noticeable. The errors are dismissed as "I uploaded them wrong"
    • Day two saw 30% images mirrored. The boss started to have problems and thought some computer issue was at hand
    • Day three has 50% of all images mirrored and the boss started to doubt his sanity. Nothing he did could solve the problem. And, of course, neither could the support crew find any problems (me and my colleagues).
    • Day four and 75% of all images got mirrored. We finally cracked up after the boss started to pull out his hair. The entire support crew was on the floor trying to breath in between the laughter.

    Success :-)

    BTW, the boss said it was a great joke.

    1. I Am Spartacus

      Re: Upside down images

      Very good indeed!

    2. MrBanana Silver badge

      Re: Upside down images

      One poor noob got treated to a "keyboard issue". We remapped a couple of common keys on his keyboard to be swapped, but also physically switched the key caps. He never paid much attention to the key swap, until using any other keyboard - some head scratching. Then we started unswapping the key map in certain applications. He then started trying, and rejecting, 3 other "broken" keyboards before we told him.

      1. A____B

        Keyboard issues

        Remember the days of PS2 connectors? **

        Swapping the mouse and keyboard over would not give any BIOS errors at startup, but the system wouldn't work without a swap back and power down/power up.

        Or for more modern pranks (works on Windows, not on Linux, haven't tried it on Mac) - CTRL-ALT-arrow-key combos are good for rotating / flipping the display

        ** back in the day when mice had balls and keyboards were real keyboards !!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Keyboard issues

          CTRL-ALT-arrow-key combos are good for rotating / flipping the display

          Hmm, doesn't work here. (W10 & Nvidia).

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Re: Keyboard issues

            Specific to certain video drivers.

            Most Intelgrated, IIRC

          2. emfiliane

            Re: Keyboard issues

            Yeah, that's an Intel specific default shortcut, though you can set it for both NV and AMD as well. (Well, you could a few years ago, they change things around enough that I'm not 100% sure now.) Likewise, you can disable it on Intel, because it's annoying as shit when you accidentally do it, or worse, a staffer who thinks they broke the computer.

        2. Brian 3

          Re: Keyboard issues

          I don't know how many PS2 ports I saw blown out from people plugging in hot, too. Some motherboards just were not OK with it.

        3. Not Yb Bronze badge

          Re: Keyboard issues

          Most Linux display settings can also do the "rotate display" trick, or swap the two monitors around left and right... (o.O)

        4. Jedit Silver badge

          "back in the day when mice had balls"

          Wait - if mice don't have balls, where do the little mice come from?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "back in the day when mice had balls"

            Mice have a kind of strange history of reproduction.

            First they reproduced asexually, as they only had wheels. We're not really sure how that worked, possibly some sort of budding.

            Then female mice appeared, with the first optical mice that ran on a grid. We suspect the grid may have played a part, but science has yet to explain how, and these early female mice are nearly extinct now.

            Then male mice appeared, you could tell because they had balls. For a bit, virtually all mice were male.

            Now it's reversed again, and virtually all mice are female. Apparently there are still enough male mice around to handle them all, great time to be a male mouse, I suppose.

        5. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Keyboard issues

          There's a key combo that cycles through keyboard layout/keyboard language which I can never remember and accidently press often enough to think "not again!" and have to hunt out the taskbar control.

          1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

            Re: Keyboard issues

            You mean WIN-SPACEBAR. Once you administer various language laptops, including languages you cannot read, you learn.

            1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

              Re: Keyboard issues

              Nope, not Win-SPACE here. Win-SPACE ;'# Win-SPACE ;'# no change.

      2. Caver_Dave Silver badge

        Re: Head scratching

        I was unable to log into a remote computer with a user name and password that I knew to be correct and even cut'n'paste failed.

        It turns out that the remote computer had been configured in a different language (either French or German) and my password contained a character that was mapped differently.

        I resolved it by typing the password into the user name field so that I could see what character was actually being mapped, and work out how I needed to modify the password.

        1. Notrodney

          Re: Head scratching

          Before Covid I worked with companies that had offices across Europe (so very slightly different Keyboard layouts from country to country). We were always having issues with passwords being set by IT that

          had special characters that were different keys in different countries. Especially when the PC was supplied from a different country (the PCs were pre-configured with hardware and software). Kept trying to explain that there are only certain characters they can use (I think ! was okay). Never seemed to get through to them.

    3. -bat.

      Re: Upside down images

      I did exactly this to my flatmate! Again, using squid, (plus image magic in my case). Flatmate comes home, and browses the web for about 15 minutes - without noticing all images are upside down!

      I idn't have the patience to wait any longer, so I actually went into his room and pointed it out to him. Turns out the only website he had been browsing was for some music festival in Cambridge, and had just assumed "hippies don't know how to write websites" when he saw the reversed pictures.

    4. aerogems Silver badge

      Re: Upside down images

      Ah Squid... A useful program for many things, even if the name is a bit unfortunate.

      I once had a roommate who kept odd hours and so sometimes at like 2-3am, I would be awakened to them blaring some Soviet era opera or who know what other bizarre thing. So, I set up a Squid server and started throttling their bandwidth. I made it so loading web pages would still be fine, but if they wanted to download anything over say 1MB, it was going to slow to a crawl pretty quick.

    5. J. Cook Silver badge

      Re: Upside down images

      Ah, the 'upside-down'-ternet prank.

      Always a good time there...

    6. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

      Re: Upside down images

      Even more moons ago. We have VT220 terminals on our desks. Whilst colleague (who had it coming, believe me) was away we pulled the case of his off, and reversed the polarity of all of the scan coils to the CRT. Result - upside down display. We then placed the monitor upside down on his desk. He comes back, sees the monitor,puts it right way up, goes "ha-ha", and switches on. To be greeted by the login prompt in the bottom right corner. Delicious.

  4. chivo243 Silver badge

    Not so harsh, and not at work

    "A good" friend of mine is a huge Beatles fan, and one birthday, he received as a gift, a pack of Beatles collectors cards. One of these cards was black and white pic of Paul, with his hand on his cheek, and looking oh so dreamy. Other friends and I made sport of that photo, so the "good friend" had photo copies of it made. Pretty soon we started finding these photo copies in our coat pockets, in our cars, and even in our mail boxes! It was all good fun! We called that getting "Dreamy Paul'd"

    Not too long ago, I found one of those photo copies in a photo album, and have snapped a photo of it, and now I do the Digital Dreamy Paul now and again...

    1. Sam not the Viking

      Re: Not so harsh, and not at work

      Some years ago, we went to a friend's party where at the end of the evening, a bottle of white wine remained unopened. It appealed to nobody's taste and was left. Some weeks later, I find this bottle of wine in our fridge....... Saying nothing, we smuggled it into another person's house, hidden in plain sight. Eventually, it must have been noticed; it had gone but lo and behold it was back at the first party's house, again there but not where expected.

      These shenanigans went on for some time, the bottle had to be placed unobserved but not hidden completely.

      I don't know how the saga ended, but now I'm thinking I ought to check our house.

      1. NXM

        Re: Not so harsh, and not at work


        "Yes, skip?"

        "The lemon is in play."


  5. aerogems Silver badge

    I swear I read this on some old Who Me or On Call, but a good idea for how Max can get back at Thaddeus.

    Story goes that some Michael Scott type manager takes off for like a 2-week vacation, and someone on staff decides it would be hilarious (and I personally agree) to hire someone to come in and put up drywall in front of their office and make it look as if it was never there. Then this person convinces everyone in the office to pretend like they have never met the manager upon their return. Don't remember how the story ends, and frankly, who cares?

    1. Munchausen's proxy


      This was done to the President of MIT, although not quite so firmly as drywall:

      1. aerogems Silver badge

        Re: IHTFP

        Maybe where they got the idea from. Suppose it's also possible someone told that story and I'm just conflating it with something else, but either way... the idea of making their office "disappear" and then getting everyone in the office to pretend like they've never seen the person before in their life would be a good one.

    2. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      I interviewed at Goldman Sachs back in about 1998 - got the contract. When I turned up two months later on the start date, I didn't recognise anything - in that time they had rearranged the office, putting up dry-wall, and the team I was joining were also all in a meeting so I literally had no idea what to do next. To complete the bizarre, while standing there trying to work out my next move I got a tap on the shoulder and it was someone I had worked with 5 years previously, on the other side of the planet. He took my to my team and normal service resumed. It remains one of the odder starts to my day.

    3. swm

      This was done at Dartmouth only they bricked over the door and painted the bricks to match.

  6. Mr. V. Meldrew

    Pleased to meed you....

    "This week meed a man we'll Regomize as "Thaddeus". "

    El Reg....must try harder. Pleased to meet you. :)

  7. Marty McFly Silver badge

    FBI banging down doors is a real thing

    My nephew is a PFY. Lived in an urban area, and left his WIFI open. No big deal. Except some pedo down the street was using it for unsavory activity. The Feds showed up at my nephew's door as he was leaving for work and gave him 30-seconds to warn his wife they were coming in.

    They had a valid search warrant and they searched his computers, finding nothing. The Feds started to suck up to my nephew, telling him how tech savvy he is, how he should be working for them, etc. Appealing to his civic duty they then asked to put a tap on his network for two weeks and told him not to tell anyone about the incident.

    The only problem is, putting a tap on his network and a gag order was NOT part of the warrant! He should have immediately headed to the local news station and told his story. If that caused the Feds to lose their suspect, that is a problem of sloppy investigating and fishing warrants. Law abiding citizens should not be subject to law enforcement banging down doors and violating our private lives. This whole situation was clearly a government violation of the Fourth Amendment.

    The tech issue is the open WiFi, of course. However, the Feds failed to explain to the judge that anyone within a couple hundred yards with a decent antenna could access it. Around 50 residences, including the Feds from their vehicle out in the street. The judge should have recognized this and then denied the warrant. The Feds simply had not done a thorough investigation...or they lied / left out details to the judge.

    The pedo was thankfully caught. The ends, however, do not justify the means. One citizen's Constitutionally protected rights cannot simply be overlooked in the pursuit of Justice. Search warrants are not permitted to be served without establishing probable cause.

    My nephew learned from this, and eventually understood everything that transpired. His WiFi is still open. But he now lives on property in the country. Anyone accessing his WiFi is trespassing and likely to get a 12ga welcome...including the Feds. I don't fault him for not trusting law enforcement after this experience.

    1. J. Cook Silver badge

      Re: FBI banging down doors is a real thing

      Being out in rural country is still no excuse to leave an open wifi network.

      I've been tempted to set up a honeypot access point for grins n giggles that re-directs everything to the rick roll video just to see who gets suckered, but I haven't had the time or inclination.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: FBI banging down doors is a real thing

      Seems to me your nephew is or wasn't too bright

      1. Open Wifi and not aware a pedo was using it.

      2. Believed them saying how tech savy he was (see 1.)

      As for the rant about constitutional rights - Bullshit! -you said they ASKED about putting a tap on his network and I'm willing to bet they asked him not to tell anyone too (pretty obviously not wanting the pedo to find out about the tap).

    3. Cheshire Cat
      Thumb Up

      Re: FBI banging down doors is a real thing

      If the local police *asked* me to help them catch a pedo who was stealing my wifi to try and cover his activities, by adding a snoop to the network for a week and keeping quiet about it, I'd have no problems helping them out. The key word here is "asked".

      Though I'd not be such a jerk as to have no auth on my wifi in the first place of course.

  8. red floyd

    Would you believe...

    That you missed it by THAT much?

    Ahh, yes... the old "Boss pranks the employee trick"!

    1. vulture65537

      Re: Would you believe...

      Don't tell me this was at a greeting card company.

  9. Killfalcon Silver badge

    Our service manager had on his desk a mouse with no wire. It was a broken one that someone had, to ensure it wasn't mistakenly used, had ripped the USB cable out of.

    The local busybody wandered by on one of their work-avoiding 'networking' strolls, saw it and said "Oh, they've given you a wireless mouse? I asked about that, but couldn't get one."

    SM, not missing a beat: "Oh, sure, but I didn't get on with it. You can have it you want. It's self-pairing, just sit it next to your laptop for 20 seconds."

    BB wanders off grinning, with his 'new toy'...

  10. Sequin

    Colleagues of mine used to play 5-a-side football during their lunch breaks at a local council facility. One of them was accidentally elbowed in the nose during a match and had a major nose bleed and ended up at the local casualty department to get his nose reset and packed with gauze.

    A couple of days later he received a letter ostensibly from the council, with a large bill for cleanup, incuding specialist bio-hazard team and materials. it was at least a dqay before we told him that a friend had got hold of some council letterheaded paper and typed up the letter. He swore more than he did when he was elbowed!

  11. Morrie Wyatt

    And loving it.

    I'm surprised that nobody mentioned 86 and the Chief.

    Damn, no shoe phone icon.

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