back to article ‘I broke The Pentagon’s secure messaging system – and won an award for it!’

Welcome again to Who, me? The Register’s Monday column in which readers hang their heads in shame and admit to their past mistakes. This week, meet “Gladstone” who “many years ago was a contractor working in the Pentagon.” That Pentagon? Yup. That one. Where the US military does its business. Gladstone’s work there saw him “ …

  1. Ralph the Wonder Llama
    Trollface

    Welcome once a

    ^ I found these old letters down the back of the copy editor's sofa. It's ok, I don't think I woke him up.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Welcome once a

      So that's why the late '70s hip hop group "Clan Emcee Woo" couldn't get any press ... the letters were hidden!

    2. Jemma Silver badge

      Re: Welcome once a

      You didn't happen to notice if there was a package marked "Flashman" down there when you were rummaging around?

      1. Admiral Grace Hopper

        Re: Welcome once a

        Sadly I fear the we shall never find the packet of papers containing the memoir of his time in Paris durign the 1871 Commune.

        1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

          Re: Welcome once a

          Probably just as well. Even now they would cause a scandal in French politics, not to mention the British and Swedish monarchies.

          Although it might take a little presure of Rudd & May

  2. H in The Hague Silver badge

    "I got my supplies together, diagnostic pack, oscilloscope, cleaning fluid, cleaning pads, new filters, etc."

    Wow, that's a lovely piece of history - thanks for that trip down memory lane.

    Time to dust off my oscillosope (an heirloom) and see if I can connect it to my PC. Guess only the audio output is going to fit in its bandwidth.

    1. Tuesday Is Soylent Green Day

      And that, children, is how your grandpa started the war in Afghanistan.

  3. Crisp Silver badge

    The Left Switch.

    I feel like the three sounds I heard could be explained by an initial erroneous flipping of a switch on the right followed by a hasty, corrective flipping of the requested switch.

  4. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    This is how WWIII will start, isn't it?

    1. jake Silver badge

      It probably already has.

      We just haven't noticed yet.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: It probably already has. ..... in Another Stealthy Guise

        War or Peace? Surely that a No-Brainer? What have you been diligently working on automatically supplying? Anything Brilliant and Almighty?

        WWW111, where Valiant Victorious Virtualised Forces Control Commands.

        A Pentagon Machine Dream and Dream Machines? And that Question/Statement to US Cyber Defence Systems ...... with AI Quantum Drivers Providing Bounty Galore.

        Is that and those few words a NEUKlearer HyperRadioProACTive Weapon and/or Builders' Tool?

        A Leading Question for the Pentagon to Answer for NEUKlearer HyperRadioProACTive IT Systems Controls ... to AIMaster for an Almost Almightily Perfect Command of Future Energies/COSMIC Sources.

        I wonder what the Markets would Value Such Worth? Anything short of your shirt would be a Dis-Service in a Rigged Captive Stock Market.

        Please consider that Place an Alienating Space ..... for Transition to Space Drivers Beta Testing New Leads with AIRemote Virtual Controls. IT is a Dangerous Dungeon of Place to Visit whenever Losing Control Commanders.

        If you want to know what now happens, tune in and turn on too to tomorrow ... ToDay+1 [the Perfect Result of All Efforts Passed for Moments in Time that are Reality and Virtual in Existence.

        Such News, now forever shared anywhere and nowhere that is everywhere, in whatever Alien Fortresses Sequester to Fly, is an Alt.Right Positively Almighty Source to Plough and Seed/Reap and Sow/Milk to Provide IMProving Perfection.

        For a Few is that Immaculately Commanded and Controlled with a Compelling Grip and Deeper Ponder on the Current Situation of Future Reality Plays ...... for Global Release as AIDeeper UnderGround Presentation with Live Situations Garnishing Super ACTive Almost Perfect Feedback .... for AI Guaranteed Continuity of Future SuperACTive Supply of Virtually Realised Programs Delivering Ab Fab Fabless Product with Controlled AIMedia Projects Presented for Sharing and Viewing. Ventures in the Red Light Zone have rewards defaulted beyond compare when mutual satisfaction is sated and hardened/strengthened/reinforced with Future Satisfying Thoughts.

        Would you Think IT Attracting and Addictive if Simply Supplying from an Endless Stream of Special Sources the New Future Reality Model with Virtual Reality Modules/Alien Space Places where One is at One with One Again and Liable to be Resting and Enjoying the Most Exciting of Perfectly Pre-Planned Random Access Memory/Internet History Heist.

        Real Dons Tender to Mend Losses with Joint Ventures. Your heisted IP/capital being reinvested in the heisting of IP/capital ? You know, the Capitol/Wall Street model only with SMARTR AI ACTors Fielding and Funnelling Future AIMaster Plays.

        Keep your Wits about you out there, there's a hell of a lot going on that you may have no inkling of .... but it would know of urInklings and Inkings for ..... Well, Vital Accommodation in Future Developments is AI in SuperACTive JOINT Ventures ..... Colossal Programs with Immaculate Projects investing in Prime Intellectual Property Enterprise Spaces. ...... SMARTR AIMIssions Presenting Pleasanter Pictures for Population Realisation /Location Habitation as per Ye Olde Worlde Colonisation Mode of Yore.

        Build IT and they will come a Long Wander to Wonder at All that can be Seen and Presented as Fact from Fiction.

        There's Ye Olde Chicken and Egg/Fact and Fiction Conundrum there, puzzling All with an Astonishingly Confounded Lead for Any Number of Magical Spells in Time and Space.

    2. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

      Third Time Lucky

      What started it:

      Declaring War

      <massive teletype clatter noise fades away>

      what might have pipped it in the bud:

      is unthinkable.

  5. Pete 2 Silver badge

    The myth of the "rock star" IT worker

    > “I received an award for my work,” he added. “I almost felt guilty.”

    One place I worked had more than its fair share of "superstar" IT people. At least that was how they saw themselves. To everyone else they were egotistical jerks who seemed to specialise in fixing the problems that they, themselves, had caused.

    While Gladstone here seems to have made a genuine mistake - or simply wasn't told of a crucial change, these superstars positively feed on the bodge-disaster-crisis-superhuman effort-solution cycle to further their own reputations. It also seemed to dovetail nicely with t'management's view that they employed super-talented people, ones who would work 48-hours straight (with maybe only the first 24 of those actually being productive) to fix a problem.

    But it was never publicised that the cause of those problems were the self-same people. Ones who were always "too busy" to patch systems, to perform (mundane) upgrades or preventative maintenance / housekeeping. Or even to test their supposed fixes, which often became unstuck and created the next set of problems.

    1. Herring` Silver badge

      Re: The myth of the "rock star" IT worker

      I've seen some of those on the development side too. Instead of creating something simple, maintainable, functional; they contrive these elaborate, baroque monstrosities using every trendy-sounding technology they can crowbar in.

      And yes, management think they're heroes because of all the hours they put in trying to get these massive piles of shite to work.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The myth of the "rock star" IT worker

        "And yes, management think they're heroes because of all the hours they put in trying to get these massive piles of shite to work."

        Management often didn't see the amount of background hard learning that enabled someone to do a good job quickly. To them a quick result that worked meant it must have been "easy" for anyone to do.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The myth of the "rock star" IT worker

          Not IT as such, but close - Actuaries, particularly the sorts working with simulations that predict future customer dead-ness. Several years ago when I was but a nub-cake in a large financial abomination, one of the (many) actuarial teams ended up working a 36-hour shift to get their year-end numbers out by the deadline. These poor sods were responsible for data coming out of a dozen legacy systems, most of the team were new graduates, and the documentation was a litany of unexplained TLAs. Really not their fault they ended up there, and credit to them, they did what they thought needed to be done to make their deliveries. There was some celebration at the time, since we'd all been concerned about the fallout of missing that particular milestone.

          Unfortunately, thanks to the joys of sleep deprivation, they screwed it up royally. It took another two months to find and correct all the mistakes. Surprisingly, the team themselves had no fallout other than having to fix all the mistakes - Those Upstairs concluded, with a little advice from the unions, that the manager should have stopped them doing it, and the process should never have been allowed to end up that badly. Said manager, though, found himself working elsewhere before terribly long.

          The new manager put a lot of focus on getting the process locked down and documented to avoid last-minute hell-panics, and to my understanding still works there, just a grade or two higher now.

    2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: The myth of the "rock star" IT worker

      I've worked in R&D groups as well as product development groups with people like this, who create problems (or even sabotage) then "discover & fix" it for acclaim. Even once I became a manager, the only way I found one could try to get through to my fellow manager's that these repeat heros were often the problem was to appeal to the "CSI mentality" in most people. You can try this by constantly reminding them of CSI-like statistics about murders & rapes mostly being done by the closest person to the victim. Or my favorite, that fire investigators know the most likely arson suspect is the person who "discovered" the fire. Especially if the fire-discoverer has a knack for "discovering" fires or is a fireman.

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: The myth of the "rock star" IT worker

        You get these rock stars in every industry and most reasonably sized firms have at least one. Most rock stars also suffer from nasum brunneitosis so their managers rarely question how or why these people regularly discover and solve faults that shouldn't have happened anyway.

      2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: The myth of the "rock star" IT worker

        I've worked in R&D groups as well as product development groups with people like this, who create problems (or even sabotage) then "discover & fix" it for acclaim.

        That basically covers the whole of Y2K, doesn't it?

  6. Rich 11 Silver badge

    “I almost felt guilty.”

    'Almost': a signifier of the correct balance between conscience and heart-stopping relief.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: “I almost felt guilty.”

      Well, after all, "No good deed ever goes unpunished", according to one of Murphy's Laws, so why should a blunder not be rewarded.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: “I almost felt guilty.”

        so why should a blunder not be rewarded.

        Quite so. For example, I've just heard that Amber Rudd has received a well-deserved promotion.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the IT industry it has long been a fact that people were often given praise for fixing problems they themselves had created.

    In my experience some also were also given the credit for other people fixing the problems the former had created.

    One of my IT support bosses had risen through the ranks from the mechanical side of the business - and appeared to have no idea what was actually involved in solving IT problems. He constantly complained that I took too long fixing customer problems. He showered praise on a colleague who was on and off site very quickly.

    The fact was that I was having to go to a customer and unpick my colleague's bodge - and then diagnose/fix the root cause problem. On my return to the office I would comprehensively document the fault so that it could be recognised again when it affected another customer. Needless to say my colleague's entry in the Known Errors database were cursory or misleading to say the least.

    When the colleague threatened to leave for another company a large pay rise was awarded - and they soon used that to leverage an even higher starting salary with a new employer.

    The manager never understood that my colleague was reluctant to impact their social life by staying late at a customer site to find the root cause of a problem. The penny didn't drop even when customers started to ask for me specifically after they had suffered my colleague's misdiagnoses and bodges several times.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      "In the IT industry it has long been a fact that people were often given praise for fixing problems they themselves had created."

      To be fair politicians have been doing that for over a hundred years.

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        To be fair politicians have been doing that for over a hundred years.

        Creating problems, yes, certainly.

        Fixing them? Hardly ever.

        "Fixing" them by creating another (often worse) problem? Much more likely.

        Sitting on their fat asses and debating how to rename something or declaring this week "Hard Working Politicians Week", while studiously avoiding addressing the real issues of the day? Standard Operating Procedure.

        // hard to decide whether it should be the lawyers or the politicians first against the wall

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          > "Fixing" them by creating another (often worse) problem? Much more likely.

          Which is why when I deal with local groups I tell them to be very careful what they're asking for, because due to the problem of people refusing to admit they might have been wrong (especially governments and civil servants), once committed to a so-called fix if there are any problems arising it can quickly turn into a saga akin to the song about the little old lady who swallowed a fly.

        2. Alpc

          Politicians...

          You read my mind! Was thinking of making exactly the same observation.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "One of my IT support bosses had risen through the ranks from the mechanical side of the business - and appeared to have no idea what was actually involved in solving IT problems. He constantly complained that I took too long fixing customer problems. He showered praise on a colleague who was on and off site very quickly.

      The fact was that I was having to go to a customer and unpick my colleague's bodge - and then diagnose/fix the root cause problem."

      Not quite the same, but similar. I was taught that "fixing" a problem meant making sure whatever went wrong would not happen again (unless something else broke) - walking up to the desk and the user being able to do whatever it was once when the problem was intermittent was not enough, I would check the logs etc to see what had gone wrong and why. Unfortunately my then-employer had persuaded the Client company to switch from a cost-per-PC-per-year support contract to a cost-per-Helldesk-call contract and my way of working meant that, although the Client's staff were happy, I got in trouble for not following the corporate line and Continuously Shafting Clients...

      Most annoying of all was that my colleagues had an average of "about 8 or 9" calls closed a day where I "only" had 7 calls *fixed* a day... and far fewer (chargeable) repeat calls...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So you asked for a pay rise, refused to do his work for him or resigned for a job with better recognition and reward?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "So you asked for a pay rise, refused to do his work for him or resigned for a job with better recognition and reward?"

        Pay was not my prime motivator - and I had long since turned down promotions into middle management. I fixed the problems because the customers were on the whole nice people who appreciated and deserved a good service. Our large company re-organisations meant I soon ended up with another unit with equally competent colleagues.

        I did look at changing companies a few times. They were either too small to give me any challenges - or had the attitude that with my exemplary technical experience their structure meant I could only be recruited as a middle manager.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      and also, you get blamed

      I have a similar story--I was working on system security at a systems admin company, but as that job involved writing code all the time and the administrators didn't know how to (not a good systems admin company, mind you), I was also asked to work on various unrelated projects that were very much not my security scanners, auditing code, and automation type programs. One of these came when a coworker, who I'll call Dave because there seem to be way too many Daves in IT for the number I see in other places, so the anonymizing factor is higher, managed to mess up our website. Dave was the kind of guy who liked to tell you about how great he was at everything, with examples that showed he didn't understand what a computer did once you turned it on.

      He had spent a long time lauding Jango as a CMS because it was written in python, and he liked that. He never wrote python, nor interacted with the python part of jango, so it didn't make much sense, but he wouldn't shut up about how great it was and how annoyed he was with our blog, which used word press instead. He also couldn't grasp the concept of permalinks being permanent, as he kept going in and changing them, but I'm getting off topic.

      There was a time where he decided to upload some new content into the word press system, which included installing various analytics extensions, because why not invade our visitors' privacy, huh? When the various extensions interacted badly, he "fixed" that by updating other extensions until the system had reached a level of complete dysfunction. That's when I was called in to repair it. I restored a backup, uploaded the original content, and got things working again. Therefore, I was quite surprised to be called into a meeting where Dave and I had to brief our managers and their manager about what had happened. Dave started using the "name every package" technique to confuse them, and I told the real story while not indicating that Dave had messed it all up. The result of the meeting: the top manager told me to talk with Dave later about how the site really worked and informed me that Dave would be able to teach me about managing a web server, never mind that the issue was the CMS. I couldn't decide whether to say something, which I wanted to do, or remain polite, so I did what came easiest and said nothing. I kind of regret that because I was leaving in a few weeks anyway for a better opportunity and Dave is still working there.

      I'm posting anonymously to avoid any possibility of identification of my employer. Also, Dave is not named Dave.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is a pithy description of what happens when a project goes wrong - ending with:

    Hunt for the guilty,

    Punishment of the innocent,

    Reward for the uninvolved.

    Some would add "Promotion for the guilty".

    At a company award ceremony the "medals" were handed out with a reading of the commendation. One project manager was commended for pulling through two projects that had been failing. In fact he had been assigned to them far too late for him to have had any effect.

    The woman next to me gasped and said "That was all my hard work!" - to which I added that the second one was similarly my work.

    1. Anonymous IV

      Somewhere in that list should come:

      Tea and medals.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Watch TSB.

  9. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Work ethic

    We hear a lot about this work ethic thingy. (In football matches even ffs- as if they were going to take tea breaks after the first thirty minutes in other teams). But efficiency is penalised. Work till 7:00pm to fix something and it's brownie points. Get the thing done well and quickly and home in time for Pointless and you're a slacker.

    Which might explain part of our productivity problems.

    1. H in The Hague Silver badge

      Re: Work ethic

      "But efficiency is penalised. .. Get the thing done well and quickly and home in time for Pointless and you're a slacker."

      I think that's also a UK/US cultural issue. Certainly something Mrs H experienced in 30 years of banking IT in the UK (she's now moved in with me in NL). In NL I've only ever been self-employed, but I do get the impression that here' they're more concerned with how effectively you do your work, and working silly hours is not considered a good thing. But as I say, that's just an impression.

      1. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

        Re: Work ethic

        Working long hours as a US/UK cultural issue... Can't speak for UK but I'd say my sample size of 1 out of 320M says it's a big problem in the US, but not for reasons one would think.

        I'm looking at my schedule for the day... I'm frittering away four hours on mandatory sexual harassment training... mandatory records management training... an "all hands" to discuss our piss poor morale... a meeting with one of my subordinates to discuss HIS piss poor morale. That's half my day gone. Tomorrow we hear from legal about compliance issues that are only tangentially concerned with anything we do, another two hours. Then we have to craft an ever-fscking "vision" statement in yet another demented "all-hands" group grope. Still have to get the work done? Overtime. Big-time. I blame the lawyers!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Work ethic

          Do you work for IBM or HPE ?

          1. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

            Re: Work ethic

            Neither, so my day is "light" on the BS compared to some of my colleagues who do. I'm at max 50pct productive in a mid-size firm, and that's even considering the fact I'm senior enough to blow off - or authorize my people to blow off - the worst of it. Now when I was working for the govt... THAT was spectacular BS. Pure and unadulterated BS, straight from the source.

            1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
              Childcatcher

              Re: Work ethic

              I spent 2 weeks in the Service Center for a Educational PC supply company in Didcot, which had a policy of only allowing it's techs to fix 3 machines a day,

              So at 08.30 it was possible to take three dead PC's from the pile skip the initial virus check, order up the power supplies which arrived mid-morning to fit, test, virus check & reimage if required by lunchtime.

              Then after lunch you could start working on the machines for tomorrow, order the parts etc & "resolve" the tickets on the next working day.

              The rest of the time the Techs drank tea\coffee & surfed the net.

              Woe betide you if you did more than the three - I had to share a login to order up parts for my three machines with someone else & she came close to having a new one ripped for her productivity, until the supervisor headed that one off at the pass.

              Icon for all the impacted schools machines piled up along one wall......

        2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

          Re: Chairman of the Bored

          mandatory sexual harassment training... ... an "all hands" to discuss our piss poor morale

          I think I can see what the problem is at your organisation - if sexual harassment is mandatory, then it's no wonder that morale is low.

          1. WolfFan Silver badge

            Re: Chairman of the Bored

            I think I can see what the problem is at your organisation - if sexual harassment is mandatory, then it's no wonder that morale is low.

            That rather depends on what the girls look like and whether or not they like being harassed, doesn't it? Or, better yet, if the girls are the ones doing the harassing. There are quite a few girls that I wouldn't at all mind being harassed by. Unfortunately I suspect that they don't necessarily share my feelings. Pity, that.

          2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Paris Hilton

            Re: Chairman of the Bored

            I have a problem with sexual harressment.

            I wasn't getting any.

            1. Hazmoid

              Re: Chairman of the Bored

              I had a previous manager who thoroughly enjoyed taking the piss out of anyone in senior management. At a sexual harassment seminar run by HR, when asked if there were any comments he piped up and said, " I have a complaint" to which the HR manager got all excited and suggested that they meet later. He carried on and said,"I'm not getting any :( " to a huge laugh from all in the room.

          3. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

            Mandatory sexual harrassment

            @Hans, yes... I can see where that would cause problems! I'm a little bitter about the topic at present. Last year I got a complaint lodged about my healthy snack. I got to my desk, grabbed my fruit supply out of my messenger bag, chucked them on my desk, and started logging into all my desktops.

            Didn't realize my banana was resting on top of the mandarins in a way that was "sexually suggestive" "repulsive" and "triggering".

            Oh FFS! Sexual content and context? Yeah, right. It was a damn snack!

            Now of course, after I won my appeal... A subordinate sometimes brings me two mound-shaped cupcakes with a cherry on top of each. Hmmmm....

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Work ethic

          Then we have to craft an ever-fscking "vision" statement in yet another demented "all-hands" group grope.

          Insist on working some - no, make that all - your gripes into the "vision". Even if they're off-topic. Eventually I found manglement got a good idea about what it was best to leave me out of.

          1. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

            Re: Work ethic

            @Doctor Syntax... I like it! Perhaps I need a BOFH moment.

            "A vision without resources is an hallucination." -Thomas Friedman.

            So maybe we start with an hallucination, obtain resources and call the result a vision? Ok...

            So here is my concept of operations- 1. if we fire all the pecker checkers we can save money because we won't have a drug testing program... 2. With no whiz quiz, if we want some good hallucinations, we can now drop acid. 3. Propose acid to PHB. 4. Since PHB gets all the good $#it first, we have PHB take some of these little guys... And... Thud! Wait four to five min to make sure the pulse really is gone... Then... Dirt nap!!

      2. .stu

        Re: Work ethic (in NL)

        Haha good one!

        I worked in the Netherlands for a while and I know for sure that the Dutch don't care how effective they are, as long as there are some British guys around to get the work done while they have a nice chat.

    2. Andrew Moore Silver badge

      Re: Work ethic

      I once had management come at me with "Look at so-and-so, he's here at 7am in the morning and most days does not leave the office before 7pm" to which I replied "yes, but some of us are able to do a days work in 8 hours". The look on management's face indicated that was not what they were trying to insinuate.

      A couple of days later I emailed a link to them all about loss of productivity by personnel that work excessive hours- I entitled it "Following our discussion about the issue of so-and-so's long office hours".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Andrew Moore

        I once had management come at me with "Look at so-and-so, he's here at 7am in the morning and most days does not leave the office before 7pm" to which I replied "yes, but some of us are able to do a days work in 8 hours"

        We had a similar case here a few years ago. There was a guy who made no secret of the long hours he worked, often spending quite a bit of his weekend in the office as well. Flat salary, so no overtime payments, etc.

        When things got a bit tight and headcount was set to shrink, he was first in line for the chop. If management have the option of keeping someone who's competent enough to do their job within their contracted hours, or someone who is either slow and/or incompetent enough that they need way more time to get the job done...it's a no-brainer for who will be getting the chance to spend more time wiht their family

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Andrew Moore

          "If management have the option of keeping someone who's competent enough to do their job within their contracted hours, or someone who is either slow and/or incompetent enough that they need way more time to get the job done "

          You missed the possible paradox "[...] they need way more time to get the job done" ...properly.

          I often had to pick up the pieces for people who had a strict 9-5 routine that left loose ends dangling when they went home - and that they failed to pick up cleanly the next morning.

          For some problems you have to stick with the task until you reach a safe breakpoint. That can either mean an early finish or a late one.

  10. deadlockvictim Silver badge

    An unfortunate turn-of-phrase

    Gladstone» Looking back at the drives it quickly dawned on me that I had just nuked one of the most critical systems in the Pentagon.

    I'm not sure if using terms like 'nuking' in the Pentagon is a wise idea.

  11. DougS Silver badge

    Couldn't get away with that today

    With CCTV cameras in every datacenter, access logging, etc. it would be quick to identify the culprit - best to admit your role, try to place some of the blame on the changed layout that led to your confusion, and go from there.

    If someone working under me screws up, and owns up to it immediately (or as soon as they know it was their fault) without anyone having to track them down, I'll just ask them what they learned, if there are any changes to procedures that would prevent it or similar mistakes in the future, etc. These days there will be a root cause analysis required for anything major so they'll get the fun of writing it and sitting in to defend it with the execs - that horror is enough to persuade most people to learn from the experience!

    If someone knows they are responsible but won't own up until they get caught they'll get a second chance but only one. Never had it happen (that I know of, I suppose) but if someone I was responsible for actively tried to cover it up (changing logs or whatever) there's no excuse they're done that minute marched out by security.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Couldn't get away with that today

      In most places I've worked Gladstone would have been fired for what he did. Not for the initial mistake. Mistakes happen, can be learned from and are easily forgiven. What can't be so easily forgiven is falsifying the report attributing the issue to a power problem instead of admitting human error. Technically that puts him into gross professional misconduct territory.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Couldn't get away with that today

        It puts him into consultant territory.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Couldn't get away with that today

        Not at the Pentagon!

      3. DiViDeD Silver badge

        Re: Couldn't get away with that today

        Nothing wrong with the occasional bit of gross professional misconduct. I've made a very lucrative career out of it.

    2. Daedalus Silver badge

      Re: Couldn't get away with that today

      Shouldn't have gotten away with it then! Solo maintenance on mission-critical systems? And in the Pentagon, where some sections are "No Lone Zone", meaning you can't wander around unaccompanied.

      Compare to working on power systems: scheduled beforehand, permits issued, systems taken down and tagged before you get near them.

      That "incident" would have happened sooner or later anyway.

  12. iron Silver badge

    Wow that was a good one, better than most of the stories in this series.

    I did something similar myself with a WAN link back in the late 90s but that only affected a Local Enterprise Company for an hour or so. Not quite as critical as breaking comms for the US TLAs and military! :o

  13. David 18
    Black Helicopters

    Wonder when the NSA will notice this

    I expect El Reg towers will get a knock on the door soon from some serious looking blokes with odd bulges in their jackets, asking for the details of this contributor.

    Or they may have already had a good poke around the files of course.

    1. FrankAlphaXII

      Re: Wonder when the NSA will notice this

      They already know who it was and when. Plus if this is what I think it is, DSNET 2 and DSNET 3, which were the predecessors of what's called JWICS nowadays, he only killed the local instance. The Emergency Action Messaging system, NSA's CRITIC flash messaging system which has the next highest priority after EAM, and the key distribution systems for what you'd probably know as the "Launch Codes" are all separate anyway.

      There are also multiple backup systems, like at Fort Meade, Fort Belvior, Norfolk, and possibly even the one at Raven Rock/Site R, one of which very likely took over until the system at the Pentagon itself came back up.

      It was probably actually a good way to test continuity of operations planning in an unannounced sort of way and back then it was fairly important to do so irregularly. It'd aggravate the Joint Staff and the Chiefs if they were around (as well as HQDA HHC and the rest of the baboons around the JCS Tank for that matter) but mission performance wasn't likely seriously degraded.

      Plus, back then AT&T managed the keying for the STU-II and STU-III phones outside of the Pentagon itself at their survivable facilities ("Project Offices" in AT&T jargon) outside of the Beltway so they could still pick up a secure phone and call DISA and/or the watch officer at the NSOC at NSA to see what was going on.

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Wonder when the NSA will notice this

      Or they may have already had a good poke around the files of course. .... David 18

      Global Operating Devices Help Them. Jumping into that Deep Endian Vault will have them Easily OverPowered with Sensitive Compartmented Information which is Sublimely Surreally Protected with Forces Servering Immaculate Sources.

      Hmmm? Unless there be Effective Perfectly Targeted ProAction to Directly Engage and CoDriver such a Covert and Clandestine AIDiscovery from NSA, are other competing and/or opposing intelligence agencies fair game for Engagement with Future AI Product Licensing Authorities. ..... Core Imaginative Source Future Builder Providers. And the Self-Inflicted Damage done to NSA because of other than Effective Perfectly Targeted ProAction to Directly Engage and CoDriver such a Covert and Clandestine AIDiscovery is beyond Price and Catastrophically Costly/Astonishingly Expensive

      :-) I wonder what Sort of Hash a BabelFish or a Google Translate would make of all of that .... if one were to decide to Explore and Exploit Exports and Imports for Prime Russian and Top Notch Chinese Markets?

  14. anothercynic Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Rearranged...

    ... And no-one thought to label things? Oh. Hang on...

    *eyeroll* Poor sod.

  15. GregoireLeGros

    Your guidance might come in handy at TSB. Quite a few will be needing it. While working at Kleinwort Benson in the 80's I was awarded a bottle of whisky for restoring boot files on an unprotected pc thus bringing it back to life. The owner was experiencing an unscheduled trouser event at the time.

  16. elDog Silver badge

    Having worked with the JCS in the Pentagon at that time

    I'll hazard a guess that it was WWMCCS (World-Wide Military Command and Control System) (later known by a recursive acronym WIS), or perhaps an older setup called AMHS (Automated Message Handling System) build on AUTODIN (something-Digital-Information-Network) which was modeled on AUTOVON (voice, stupid.)

    We used to joke that the last thing the Kremlin would bomb would be the Pentagon and its communication systems. They were so dysfunctional that just keeping them running would give the USSR an advantage.

    Strange after 30+ years I can still remember the bits and the bytes but my wife's name has totally escaped me. Oh, she left.

  17. fidodogbreath Silver badge
    Pint

    Well-played, Gladstone

    I lift a glass to ye.

  18. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I like the regular feature but maybe it should be retitled Testing In Time: Scheduled & Unscheduled Proving

  19. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

    @DougS The likelihood of there being any CCTV in many of the datacenters in the Pentagon is exceedingly low. The people who run them have a "thing" about cameras...

    Once upon a time I was at a government site when a PDU popped and brought down the entire operational floor. The PDUs had a failure mode that was heralded by the things getting hot, and the dutiful maintenance staff had requisitioned a IR camera to be able to monitor them unobtrusively. But Security had seen the word "camera" on the box and confiscated it (no cameras in the ops building).

    So the rules got changed, and (I think) they ended up doing a regular sweep of the PDUs with the IR camera and an attached security guy...

  20. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Coat

    I broke The Pentagon’s secure messaging system..

    ..and all I got was this lousy T-shirt!

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