back to article Sysadmin denies boss's request to whitelist smut talk site of which he was a very happy member

Welcome to Friday, readers, and therefore to another edition of On-Call, where we share readers' stories of things they get asked to do in the name of keeping computers up and running. This week, reader “Shane” brings us the story of a difficult moment in both his personal and private lives. The personal first: things weren't …

  1. tfewster Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Forward the request for authorisation, with your recommendations as the expert, i.e. CYA and make it a SEP

  2. Potemkine Silver badge

    The Eye was in the tomb and fixed on Cain

    he can see the manager's activities on the forums

    BOFH's style? ^^

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So where was the save?

    You talk about a boss saving story, but considering the fact that the boss now uses the site in his own time and apparently gets scammed I really fail to see where the save comes into the picture here. Wouldn't it have been a better idea to also inform him about the scamming caveats of the website?

    From what I read no one got really saved here, you merely postponed the inevitable a little bit.

    1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: So where was the save?

      Agreed.

      All "Shane" did was prevent the Boss from getting scammed while online via the company's network. It did nothing to prevent the Boss from being arbitrarily stupid online from elsewhere.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: So where was the save?

        " It did nothing to prevent the Boss from being arbitrarily stupid online from elsewhere."

        You could hold such people's hands and they'd STILL be arbitrarily stupid - and roundly abuse you for trying to stop them.

        The best you can hope for is to prevent their fuck ups taking out the outfit that you work for.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So where was the save?

          Almost as stupid as signing up to such a site to help with relationship problems!

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: So where was the save?

      "From what I read no one got really saved here, you merely postponed the inevitable a little bit."

      I was hunting around the bottom of the page looking for the link to page 2. It felt a bit like a barrel scraping rather than a proper On Call story.

  4. werdsmith Silver badge

    By refusing the request there is no threat to his job under any employment law I know. Doing your job properly is not considered a dismissal offence.

    If the manager gets arsy about it and gets away with trying to make life difficult you probably don't want to work there anyway. Keep a log, keep the evidence and then batter them with it.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Many places don't need a reason to dismiss. They're called "at will".

      1. sjaddy

        There are many places outside the USA believe it or not!

        Not all these "other" places have such draconian laws and aren't "at will"

        The fact the story says he saw through the people claiming to be in the "UK" would suggest he is also in the UK so USA laws dont apply (yet!)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Many places don't need a reason to dismiss. They're called "at will".

        Most places I've worked at don't allow managers to fire people without approval from higher up.

        That could be an uncomfortable conversation with HIS bosses for the manager.

        Depends on the company, I guess.

        Note: People win wrongful dismissal lawsuits all the time in the "at will" states. Judges and/or juries may invoke the "you lose because you're an assh0le clause" where the case warrants it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Many places don't need a reason to dismiss. They're called "at will".

          "Note: People win wrongful dismissal lawsuits all the time in the "at will" states. Judges and/or juries may invoke the "you lose because you're an assh0le clause" where the case warrants it."

          Yes, but.... unless it's a huge deal, it can be a pyrrhic victory. These cases are public record, and it doesn't cost much to search for every lawsuit a person has been involved with prior to hiring them. To say that suing a former employer is a giant screaming red flag is an understatement. I would investigate the reasoning and try to give the person a fair shake, but for many organizations that would just be considered too toxic to risk.

      3. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        "at will"

        Even in an "at will" state one can sue for damages if one prove there was maliciousness by management in the firing. Of course one needs documentation and good lawyer to win but can be done. It is also, called 'right to work' and I live in such a state.

        "At will" has generally been interpreted to mean one can be let go without a specific reason being given. But smart employers know to have a good reason and documentation if it is for cause. Employers are still liable for unemployment claims which can only be ducked in very specific situations.

        Now since this was in the UK, it depends on the UK labor laws as to what the employer can do and rights the employee has.

    2. Vic

      By refusing the request there is no threat to his job under any employment law I know. Doing your job properly is not considered a dismissal offence.

      No, but it's amazing how such refusals correlate with poor performance reviews a little later....

      If the manager gets arsy about it and gets away with trying to make life difficult you probably don't want to work there anyway. Keep a log, keep the evidence and then batter them with it.

      That's all well and good, but it requires a certain amount of probity from all involved. A former colleague of mine took our then-employer to tribunal for constructive dismissal. The employer simply lied, and the suit failed. So when I was faced with a similar situation form the same employer a few years later, I didn't even bother...

      Vic.

  5. Lee D Silver badge

    I work in schools.

    I once had a teacher who came to me with their personal laptop. "It's been hacked", she told me.

    After a lot of gentle interrogation, I managed to get to the bottom of why she was so sheepish and reluctant to reveal the source of the hacking or, indeed, how she knew it had been hacked. (In the past, I've had people tell me they were being hacked because they had Christmas decorations on their Smartboard which made the mouse jump all over the screen whenever they used the PC....)

    Turns out that she was a fan of certain Russian dating sites, and one of the fellows on there had been more than normally convincing. After a few back and forth conversations, he somehow managed to get her to click something, which then whipped all the OTHER personal photos she had that she hadn't already sent him... and then he sent a nasty little email threatening to reveal them all.

    It then turned into a much more open conversation involving phrases like "That's the folder but please don't go in there!", and so on, Eventually we cleaned what we had to and made sure there wasn't anything on the laptop that shouldn't be there but there would be nothing I could do about clawing back anything he did manage to access.

    Of course, it would be the ageing, near-pension, teacher for whom you REALLY don't want the associated mental image, too.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You get an upvote out of courage and endurance with that last sentence.

    2. Potemkine Silver badge

      Everyone here is wondering

      You made a backup before deleting, didn't you? ;-)

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: Everyone here is wondering

        If it was technically possible to take a flamethrower and burn the laptop to ash and then hand it back to her working, I would have done.

        Usually, such schools are filled with 19-25 year old trainee teachers.

        This was not one of those cases.

        Hell, it gave me the heebie-jeebies just in case I clicked something and ended up finding out what was in those files...

        1. macjules Silver badge

          Re: Everyone here is wondering

          "I didn't realise that allowing the nice girl I met on volgaxxx.com/nice man I was chatting with on xxxStuds.com to load TeamViewer onto my PC was wrong"

          I have a solution for people who think that their work computer has suddenly become their personal computer and consequently abuse their employer's trust:

          Used it 3 times so far and each time with the expected response, "What do you mean that it is wrong to install unapproved software on my work computer? And what happened to all my files?"

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Turns out that she was a fan of certain Russian dating sites

      You're not referring to VK (VKontakte, meaning "in touch"), are you? Technically, that's the Russian (very successful) response to Farcebook. I've seen it used for anything from exchanging recipes to dating to various other forms of procrastination, but technically it's not a dating site (I think!)

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        No.

        This was definitely, absolutely 100% more in the "meet young Russian guys online via your webcam, just send a kinky selfie to sign up" kind of site.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Smut access

    At a shop I was at we once had need to check the firewall logs for something innocuous. We found a lot of access to escort and smut sites, traced them back to one of the board. We told the line manager and we were then promptly told to delete the logs and any backups, then told to stay quiet about it while the situation was "handled". The following week, cue installation of a private ISDN line in board member's office!

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Yup, that definitely sounds like the proper response to such a situation.

      An underling, of course, would have just been sacked.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        An underling, of course, would have just been sacked.

        Once worked at a company that had weekly IT staff meetings which typically included something like: "You'll notice Paul no longer works here. He was viewing porn on company computers on company time. We track that sort of thing. He was fired. Don't do it."

        Repeat that sentence each meeting and change the name.

        We just never learned.

    2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Smut access

      Gee, I wonder if you worked at the same place my brother did!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Smut access

        Is his name Paul?

        1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

          Re: Smut access

          Nope.

          The company was a US chip company, and it was about a dozen years ago.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Smut access

            This was a US beer company. We were allowed to drink at lunch, and served beer at after-hours meetings - not saying that had any effect on these types of things.

            What I miss most: I had a debit card I was supposed to use to buy beer for people if I was at a bar, or someone was planning a party or picnic, etc. Some people say you can't buy love, but that is simply not true. I miss being loved.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Smut access

      Being the person who can discretely get things done for a board member (without doing anything illegal) is probably more valuable than following rules. Whoever was behind the installation of that ISDN line was probably untouchable after that...

    4. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: AC Re: Smut access

      ".... firewall logs...." In my experience, it's always the firewall admins that have the largest p0rn stashes.

  7. PAKennedy

    Once had the DSL go off at work so failed over to ISDN and emailed all 250 staff asking them to restrict their web browsing as much as humanly possible due to the lack of any bandwidth and to avoid personal browsing completely.

    We set up a projector scrolling username and site stats on the IT wall and it was something to glance at throughout the day.

    I had the joyous task of asking a sales member who was renowned for annoying everyone else by using speakerphone what was work related about tinypenis.co.uk (it was actually a t-shirt company of all things).

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Should have just had this in the main lobby:

      http://www.ex-parrot.com/~chris/driftnet/

    2. phil 27

      Home of the infamous "I can't believe its not butter" range of tee's. Ideal office wear in any dot com.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "We set up a projector scrolling username and site stats on the IT wall and it was something to glance at throughout the day."

      We had a class for the IT folks at our company on network monitoring and security and would track/monitor network traffic from the building as part of the class.

      The building was a training center - classrooms and support staff. Got to see people posting their resumes, viewing porn in class (probably believing that they were anonymous since they were at a training PC), etc.

      We pretty much ignored those cases, except for a short, private conversation in the most egregious cases. "You know, there is a class going on where we're looking at network traffic in the building..."

    4. Vic

      tinypenis.co.uk (it was actually a t-shirt company of all things).

      Not any more, it isn't.

      Vic.

  8. wyatt

    I was contracting on a site and found the MD's CV on a shared drive. Via another manager I let them know they should probably remove it as the other staff may get concerned with their past history of closing businesses down. Needless to say that the factory closed a few months later.

    Should I have read it? Of course not, too tempting though!

  9. Alien8n Silver badge

    I've mentioned this one a few times. Factory was closing down (was being moved to the US) and one of the senior managers comes in complaining about his Outlook running slow. Knowing that there's quite a few people who like to send funny videos and cat pictures we immediately suspected a large cache of attachments and were proven right when we investigated. Turns out one of the operators on the factory floor had been emailing porn to his boss (the senior manager) in rather prodigeous amounts. Including a rather interesting picture of the shaved lady parts with accompanying tattooed butterfly wings. We decided that as both parties were being made redundant in 2 months we'd just delete all the emails and leave it at that and it wouldn't go further than the group of us in the room at that time (mainly because the IT manager was a real PITA and would have taken it further)

  10. jake Silver badge

    “That won't be necessary,” was the manager's response.

    "Yes, it is, that's corporate policy," was jake's response. "Unless, of course, you will put your request into writing, and sign the request with two witnesses of my own choosing."

    No, I wasn't fired. The manager was, though, after he tried to make my life hell. Why? Because I documented everything. 20+ years in IT (at the time) will do that to a guy. Some 20 years later, and I've still never been fired. No, I'm not paranoid. Yet :-)

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: “That won't be necessary,” was the manager's response.

      I have every email I've ever sent or received, going back to 1999.

      There's a reason for that.

      On day one at a new workplace, I insist on installing helpdesk software if they don't have it. There's a reason for that.

      IT is one of the few professions that records, monitors, analyses and stores EVERYTHING they do, as a matter of course.

      And I can't tell you how many times that's come back to bite people on the backside - and only EVER when they lie, cheat or try to tell things other than how they actually happened. You can't hide from the truth.

      Never been fired. But have reported a number of people to various regulatory bodies.

      And, yes, the "Can I have that in writing?" phrase is often the death-knell of any number of daft, illegal, or dishonest ideas that I'm asked to participate in. Don't ask me to do things you don't want recorded, because a lawsuit often offends.

      I have actually said to a top-bod, "No. Not going to happen. I refuse to do that." and kept the job. Because they knew they couldn't force me to do it without getting themselves into a heap more trouble.

      Do not meddle in the affairs of sysadmins, for they are subtle, and quick to dig out logs.

      (Have just dealt with a problem where it was OBVIOUSLY IT's fault that their software wasn't up to date and we should update it immediately and just make everything work, and they'd get us into big trouble if we didn't just do as they commanded.

      Two months on, they snuck into the finance office, paid for the software updates that they'd NEVER PAID FOR, which is why we couldn't download them or update them or anything and we weren't going to buy them on anyone's budget but their own, and then sent us the new account details "because the download is working all of a sudden".... Shame that I kept all my emails, including the first one that said "Have you paid for this?" and they said "Yes, of course!", two months earlier.

      Without proper data retention, that could easily have come back as an "IT are just being obstructive" to senior management)

  11. John Sturdy
    WTF?

    In what kind of company can "to converse with clients" reasonably be given "as the reason the site needed to be whitelisted"?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      An escort agency?

    2. macjules Silver badge

      Perhaps if you work for Ashley Madison?

  12. Red Bren

    Not the happy ending I expected

    I thought we were going to find out that the narrator's online "friend" and the manager were in fact the same person!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had to delete my boss' porn stash...

    My boss sticks his head out of his office & calls me in to look at his desktop. He claims it's "slow" & wants me to speed it back up.

    I dutifully begin checking the currently running process' list & notice there are quite a few more programs than should be there, so I begin to investigate further. Let us see, program tree full of hidden directories with names like "dzl3022205854_wbl-fucknuts" or the like, obviously NOT official Windows 98 nomenclature. Look for the programs installed inside them, find links to various websites, so go look in the browser cache. Turns out the fekhead had been hitting porn sites like a fiend, infected & infested his machine with enough malware, spyware, & backdoors to render it essentially useless for business work.

    I clean it off, clean it up, & ask him if he MIGHT not want to move the directory of porn to a personal computer rather than a corporate one that can get him fired. He nearly soils his knickers when I prove his denunciations to be utter bollocks, & he tells me to just delete it all. I scrub the drive of anything even remotely naughty & let him have his computer back.

    I was rather happy to get the Christmas Bonus that year in a plain white envelope on the sly... I was even happier to have gotten copies of all the porn.

    It's amazing what you can get from backups!

    MUH Hahahahahhahhhaha...

  14. 2+2=5 Silver badge
    Happy

    Swing?

    > Shane decided that would be a bit mean, but occasionally regrets it: he can see the manager's activities on the forums and knows he's fallen for plenty of scams including handing over financial details to an obviously fake temptress.

    Did he not think to suggest a swap? That would have saved the boss from needing to use the site. :-)

  15. Lotaresco

    Not so clever...

    A couple of decades ago I had a request to supply someone in the company with a new laptop for "urgent field work". We configured a Thinkpad which had a "massive" 120MB hard drive. After a month the person re-appeared asking for a bigger hard drive because his was "full of work". We were suspicious because no one else had managed to run into problems that quickly. He was asked to hand in his laptop the next morning with a promise that it would be back to him with a bigger HD at the end of the day.

    One of the junior engineers was given the job of swapping the drives. He appeared after a few minutes saying there was a problem - the drive currently in the laptop was 40MB but the inventory showed 120MB, he suspected that the user had stolen the HD and replaced it with a smaller one. It seemed unlikely, so we had a look. Yes the drive was showing as 40MB capacity but a quick prod around revealed that was because it had been re-partitioned to have one 40MB boot partition and a hidden 80MB partition. We mounted that and had a look at the content. It was full of porn GIFs, close to 80MB of porn. As the junior said, some of the ladies in the photos looked startled but not as startled as the animals. Referred to HR for action.

    After that the three of us who ran IT support were asked if we wanted to re-train as security people and we did.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Forgive me......BUT....

    Where exactly is the on-call bit here ?

  17. Chris King Silver badge

    Sometimes it's not so much a save, it's more of a gentle push off the edge of a tall cliff...

    I once had a prof complain that other people were hogging the campus internet connection and preventing him from doing his "research". He refused to tell me what he was up to, but the firewall and proxy logs sang like a wet, horny canary... From the URL's and Google descriptions, it seemed that he liked to regularly "interview" some of those nice young ladies who charge handsomely for their time, yet never seem to be able to afford a full set of clothes.

    I was all set to have a cosy chat with him, and point out that doing this sort of thing from his office was a bad idea - nothing too heavy, I'm not a total prude and I had better things to do than be "porn police".

    Unfortunately, he decided to rip me a new orifice in front of his minions.

    I handed his secretary a list of the URL's, whispered "I really hope he isn't claiming all this on expenses", and walked out again. Let's just say I never heard another peep out of him after that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sometimes it's not so much a save, it's more of a gentle push off the edge of a tall cliff...

      "the firewall and proxy logs sang like a wet, horny canary... "

      Chris, you're a poet.

      1. Alien8n Silver badge

        Re: Sometimes it's not so much a save, it's more of a gentle push off the edge of a tall cliff...

        Reminds me of the IT manager at one place. They had an office on the science campus, and managed to get access to the broadband that had been installed for the campus. IT manager failed to realise that *every* URL that anyone looked at was logged and stored on the firewall. Needless to say everyone started to refuse to shake hands with him after his logfile was accidentally "released" to the rest of the IT department.

  18. energystar
    Windows

    Lost My Job, Almost.

    Had to set up a Militarized Zone for Him, and his bastardized habits. [Many, years ago]

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think the best one I saw was a colleague who when desktop support demanded to install the corporate spyware immediately changed the firewall rules to block said spyware reporting back ;)

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh, it gets worse.

    While checking web filter logs I've run across all sorts of things over the years. One was for an upper-end manager using Craigslist to arrange some... let's say highly informal and extremely déclassée encounters. Apparently the individual had a taste for fine dining in meals and the dumpster-diving equivalent in the bedroom (or back alley). I have an open mind, but I needed to bleach my eyeballs after seeing the pics involved...

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    >photographed in rooms full of US-style power points

    Oooh, me so horny!!!

    Seriously that made very little sense unless it's some kinda weird kink spin-off.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Seriously that made very little sense unless it's some kinda weird kink spin-off."

      The style of electrical fittings in the background of a photograph is a dead giveaway about what region of the world someone is in vs where they say they are - and they're so ubiquitous that if you can't see them in at least a couple of shots then you know the shots have been staged to deliberately hide them.

      There are subtle features on vehicles too thanks to regional regulation variations and regional model mixes.

      Google image search is your friend too. It's amazing how many of these "online friends" are the spitting image of Reilly Reid or some other porn star (and have the same personalised text block as a few hundred other people)

      Lastly there's the language syntax and idiom. Even if someone's a native english speaker what they put in conversations offers enormous amounts of information about their origins. (Hint, West African english structure is a lot different to US or British english, as are Indian english and russian ESOL)

      For added shits and giggles if you're bored you can read the fun at ebolamonkeyman.com

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        So, "power point" means electrical outlet? Yeah, that makes sense. I kinda assumed "PowerPoint" or some kinda server room tech stuff and... both seemed weird in this context.

        Not a scammer-related site per se, but one about weird dates:

        http://www.abadcaseofthedates.com/

      2. Kiwi Silver badge
        Headmaster

        and they're so ubiquitous that if you can't see them in at least a couple of shots then you know the shots have been staged to deliberately hide them.

        Not quite grammar nazi but...

        Just thinking of my house.. Of the bedrooms you'd only see a power point in mine as there's 2, and one is oddly high up the wall. The rest hide behind beds/furniture. In the lounge there's 3 double points in 3 corners, one behind the TV, one behind the sideboard (or whatever that cabinet thingy is called), and the 3rd behind the desk. Might see the two in the kitchen, dependign on the angle, but they're in a corner and mostly behind the jug/toaster etc. The bathroom only has one international-style shaver socket. You'd only see the one in the laundry while the washing machine is running, as the lid is open unless we're doing a wash and that hides the sockets.. But I don't think we'll do any porn shoots in front of the washing machine.. Though I'd bet there are a few woman who would get turned on by a man doing his own washing....

        I can only think of one of many thousands of photos I've taken over the years that had a power socket in it, and that's because it was in a very odd place.. Even some of the shots of some of my oddball network rigs have network ports but no power points visible.

        Though I could be a bit odd, or as I've never lived in a house less than 20 years old (ie predating our lots-of-shiny modern age)... Or both...

      3. benderama

        "British English" always sounds wrong. Do you work for the Department of Redundancy Department, by any chance?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Worked for a US based company in the late 90s

    Due to an inordinate amount of smut a proxy server, requiring user login, was set up for internet access.

    This also Included full logging of sites accessed.

    Management chain approval was required to get WWW access on this new full accountable set-up.

    Everyone trod carefully.

    After a few weeks the rumour went that smut was still being accessed.

    Turned out to be the CEO's son-in-law all along.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Deleting the bosses porn stash...

    I was recently working as a contractor for a bunch of small companies that don't actually have their own IT guy.

    One company shall we say does lighting and effects for some Talent thing.

    They were all using stand alone computers and laptops, and just a shared NAS.

    I setup a nice new server running several VM's and a DC. Created all user accounts, and got all the machines under domain control.

    Had to do lots of profile data migrations, and then got around to the MD's laptop. It was FULL to the brim with porn. Stuff that almost made me feel sick and quite angry. So i deleted it all.

    When he came back into the office sometime later, i said i had to delete allot of folders and files from the machine. His face went green, literally green. Just said "oh ok". And that was it.

    Found out later he told my parent company that i did a sterling job for them. Yeh funny how he kept quiet about that one......

  24. isomosi

    Shane is a sanctimonius a***

    So - he arbitrarily decided that someone else in his company should be blocked from using a site that he himself was using. He took it upon himself to pontificate on the other person's gullibility and make decisions for that person based on his own reading of their mental capacity.

    He should be fired. Plain and simple.

    1. Myvekk

      Re: Shane is a sanctimonius a***

      Except that you aren't yelling and can spell, you sound like JIM THE BOSS. You would, "FRIERR HIS ASK!" for following company protocol & not doing what you want. He made the correct decision that it was not appropriate for work or work PCs & left it blocked. Yes, he uses it... FROM HOME.

      The mangler can still use it on his personal equipment outside the office, or on his phone. Just not where being scammed or having a trojan installed will directly affect the company.

  25. Stuart Halliday

    Well, one thing they never taught me at University was the little secrets I'd come across whilst doing my IT job. Several employees were having sexy email talks with others on a regular basis, Senior management were having affairs, etc.

    I had informed all staff that I was training a new Spam filter so I'd have to read peoples email for the next 3 months if anyone's email was incorrectly marked as spam.

    Made interesting reading...

    1. Myvekk

      It's not what you know.

      It's not who you know.

      It's what you know ABOUT who you know...

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