Trial by threat of fire

From the Daily WTF:

For a Ramen-fueled college student, a job offer that actually involves doing the work you’re in school to learn and has a paycheck that can’t be beat vs. flipping burgers is a wonderful score. For Ted, that score came from a company run by alumni from his school that gave out pretty plum gigs to top students.

They were a support company, that contracted out to run the IT infrastructure for other companies. While the support company actually cut Ted’s check, they were a small company. 90% of their business came from a single customer, the PubCong publishing conglomerate. It was for PubCong that Ted would be actually working.

“It’s a little bit of a mess,” Chris, Ted’s boss, explained as he showed Ted around the server room. It didn’t look like a mess- to the contrary, it looked like a top-flight server room all the way from beneath the raised floors to the million dollar cooling system over their heads. “It’s so clean in here because we’re the first people in here in six months that weren’t here to dust. They paid a lot of money to have this installed, but they didn’t actually hire anyone to maintain it until we came along.”

Chris broke down some lowlights of the Mad Maxian wasteland of administration-by-user, but it boiled down to, “the hardware’s in great shape, but everything else has been installed, configured, and maintained by secretaries, janitors, and a creepy Australian kid with a razor boomerang.” They didn’t know what was installed or where it might be deployed, or who was responsible for it. For the time being, Ted was given an SSH shell account, some instructions to help run an inventory, and the command to “poke around, but don’t break anything, try not to get killed.”

Chris ran off to do whatever it is bosses do, and Ted did exactly as ordered until 6PM. The service-desk phone started ringing. Ted eyed it for a ring or two. He wasn’t really sure if he should take the call- he was new, hadn’t really been trained, and didn’t know the procedures. Still, he had done campus helldesk. It was probably just a printer jam. Ted could handle that. Before the fifth ring, he answered.

“…you useless idiotic foolish- hello? Finally. The phone’s been ringing for ages. It’s Steve. You need to fix my email.”

Ted’s helpdesk instincts kicked in. “Okay, Steve. This is Ted. What kind of trouble are you having?”

Steve spoke in slow, even tones, as if he were explaining the complexities of quantum mechanics to a hungry, brain-damaged shark. “I. Can’t. Read. My. Email.”

Ted forced himself to smile at the handset, and asked, “Are you seeing some kind of error?”

“‘Authorization failed.’ Look, can you actually fix this or not?”

Ted went down the basic email-problem checklist, but just getting Steve’s username was a challenge. “What do you mean you don’t know my username? Are you slow, or something? I’m Steve!” Eventually, Ted confirmed that ‘stevem’ had been hammering the POP3 server for most of the day, and the password had failed until the account was locked. Ted also noticed that the user data for stevem indicated that he was a C-level executive for the company.

“Well, it does look like your password is incorrect,” Ted said.

“I’m sure you think so Tim, but I have it written down right here in front of me. I know what my password is.”

“Well, perhaps you misspelled something,” Ted offered helpfully.

“Then tell me what my password is and I’ll check.”

“I can’t tell you your password,” Ted said.

“Excuse me, Todd? Do you know who I am? If you value your job, you’re going to tell me my password right now!”

Ted wasn’t going to fiddle with an account password just because someone was screaming at him, even if he could have checked what it was. These mail accounts were also shell accounts, and he wasn’t going to grant some hacker access to the system just because they screamed loudly on the phone. “I can’t do this over the phone,” Ted said, “but if you’re in your office, I can come down and reset your password.”

“In the office? Are you insane? It’s 6:15. Some of us are busy people, Tad. Now tell me what my password is. Now are you going to do what I tell you or…”

“Let me get Chris on the line,” Ted said. Chris knew Steve, and after only a few seconds of listening to Steve screaming about the coming lawsuit, Chris confirmed that Steve was in fact, Steve M, the CIO of PubCong. Chris gave Ted permission to do anything Steve asked.

“Okay,” Ted said, “I’ll just reset your password…”

“I don’t want it reset. Just tell me what it is you moron!”

Ted set Steve’s password to “stevie123″ and said, “Oh, it’s ‘stevie123′, all lower-case.”

“Hmm… that’s not what’s on my post-it. Mine doesn’t have any numbers in it. No, it doesn’t work. You’ve given me someone else’s password.”

Ted checked the logs, and saw no attempt had been made to log in. “No, that really is your password. You’re trying to log in as stevem@pubcong.com, right?”

What? No. Stevem@aol.com. Y’know, the email service. How can you work in IT and not know that!”

Republished with permission from the Daily WTF

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