back to article Staff sacked after security sees 'suspect surfer' script of shame

As your Vultures are off fighting over the remains of the Christmas dinner, we've lined up a feast of a different nature: a bonus instalment of Who, Me? This week, we hear from reader José, who wrote in to tell us how a prank led to some of his former colleagues getting their marching orders. It was back in the late '90s, and …

  1. _LC_ Bronze badge
    Thumb Down

    What a cunt!

    Didn't we take in anything from history classes?

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: What a cunt!

      This is the history you should learn from.

    2. The Man Who Fell To Earth
      Black Helicopters

      Re: What a cunt!

      Lesson #1: Never let your phone use your workplace WiFi.

      Lesson #2: Do you private surfing at work on your phone.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: What a cunt!

        While excellent advice in the present, it would have been a bit hard to do at the time of the story (somewhere in the '90s, before the first smart phone was even invented).

        1. BillG
          Facepalm

          Workplace Darwin Awards?

          Even in the 90's, wouldn't be common freakin' sense to not surf dodgy websites at work? From the very first time my workplace computer had internet access (1995?) my co-workers and I knew enough not to surf anything we knew we didn't want management to see.

          Appropriate icon chosen.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Workplace Darwin Awards?

            "Even in the 90's, wouldn't be common freakin' sense to not surf dodgy websites at work? "

            About that time there was a popular search engine called hotbot.com. There was the occasional call to the firewall team to explain that the caller had accidentally hit "Y" instead of the adjacent "T" - and hadn't noticed the typo until the HotBoy site responded..

            1. Chris King Silver badge

              Re: Workplace Darwin Awards?

              Boyzone.com was another one that caused some hiliarity - some of the students would hit it instead of the boy-band's URL, and get more in the way of flesh tones than they were expecting. I even had a couple dob themselves in for making the mistake, I toild them not to worry about it but don't make a habit of visiting regularly because other students would just point and laugh at them.

              I had a similar experience once, just by missing out a hyphen.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Workplace Darwin Awards?

              "hotbot.com .... the caller had accidentally hit "Y" instead of the adjacent "T" - and hadn't noticed the typo until the HotBoy site responded.."

              I know a guy who, many years ago, took his kids to Disneyworld and the Epcot Centre, where they had a futuristic display of 'high speed internet' (probably just a T1) complete with large screen displays that you could use to surf the net. He decided to show off by accessing his investment account back in the UK, something like 'moneymaker.co.uk', but typed '.com' instead... unfortunately the dotcom turned out to be a version of Paypal for the porn industry... "COVER THEIR EYES!!... WHERE'S THE OFF SWITCH?..."

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "wouldn't be common freakin' sense to not surf dodgy websites at work?"

            Actually, I believe many people who don't know what a proxy is think:

            1) Surfing dodgy websites at work is cheaper (especially in the 1990s when you might not have had always on and flat fee "broadband" connections

            2) (In the 1990s) It is faster than my 56K connection

            3) My partner/family won't discover my habits

            In a company I was working for in those years, we found a tester that spend most of his time collecting dodgy downloads, instead of testing our software. He was actually fired because he faked test results, it was much simpler, and it didn't invade his privacy <G>

            Common sense most of the time loses when greed and hypocrisy take control of someone.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "wouldn't be common freakin' sense to not surf dodgy websites at work?"

              And some staff had years of experience not getting caught.

              A London council decided they needed better workplace compliance tools at round the turn of the century after one of their staff was caught looking at pornographic images in an unusual manner. He printed them. And phoned the help desk to ask for assistance when they didn’t print out. And the help desk sent a poor techie to assist...

              1. IceC0ld Silver badge

                Re: "wouldn't be common freakin' sense to not surf dodgy websites at work?"

                A London council decided they needed better workplace compliance tools at round the turn of the century

                ===

                THE CENTURY ................ WTAF

                I feel so old now

                in work, it's Boxing day, and up until NOW, LAST CENTURY was the feckin VICTORIANS ffs :o)

                anyhow, I will need a strong lie down in the morning to get over this latest old age revelation :oP

                1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                  Re: "wouldn't be common freakin' sense to not surf dodgy websites at work?"

                  "I feel so old now"

                  You should worry. We had the extended family round last night. Ignoring one cousin who's a great deal older than the rest of use we realised that the first of our [i.e. cousins'] children has now reached 50. That really was frightening.

              2. Ommerson

                Re: "wouldn't be common freakin' sense to not surf dodgy websites at work?"

                If you are an avid reader of Private Eye's Rotten Boroughs column you'll know that it's not council officers who are getting in trouble for poor network hygiene, but the councillors themselves. You can well imagine that the average councillor is not very literate technically, gets given a council device, and has the opportunity to visit the darker parts of the internet they wouldn't dare visit at home lest their husband/wife found out.

            2. Mark 85 Silver badge

              Re: "wouldn't be common freakin' sense to not surf dodgy websites at work?"

              We had one of those that didn't get fired for several years. He was the "canary" in the mine sort of. His browsing records were examined daily and new sites added to the block list. At some point he figured out to get around the block list it so IT watched and figured out how he did it and reworked the firewall. Finally layoff time came around and he was the first to go. The security department sent him a box of candy with a "thanks for all your help" note. I kind of doubt that he understood the gift.

            3. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
              Boffin

              @AC Re: "wouldn't be common freakin' sense to not surf dodgy websites at work?"

              First, in the early 1990s only an uber geek would have a switched 56KB leased line which in the states was around $400.00 a month.

              Then there was this thing called USENET so you really didn't have to go to dodgy web sites to surf. The stuff came to you if you had the disk space to hold some of the alt.binaries. groups.

              So your 'family' would never find your 'surfing habits'.

              Of course things advanced quite a bit in the late 90's. I didn't get my domain until '94 because I couldn't afford it before then including the rack for the servers.

              Sorry, no pity.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: @AC "wouldn't be common freakin' sense to not surf dodgy websites at work?"

                As early as the early 1980s, Internet bandwidth getting maxed out always meant porn. Back then it was bunnies on USENET and open FTP servers. Prior to that, Fidonet and other BBSes had the same problem. Indeed, a case could be made that it was porn, and not gaming or gambling, that drove connectivity.

                I know for an absolute fact that EVERY male college student's computer that I've worked on over the last 35 years or so has contained traces of porn. The coeds didn't start picking up on Internet porn in college until around a 20 years ago ... and now, they are equal to the boys.

                In business, over the last quarter century or so, probably 80% (or thereabouts) of all male middle management PCs contain traces of Internet porn (in my experience). The ladies started surfing porn around 15 years ago, and are now (roughly) equal to the men. Obviously, those stats are in companies without cluefull network administration.

                Not trying to justify it, nor vilify it, and likewise not drawing conclusions, just stating my observations. Do with them what you will.

                1. Nick Kew Silver badge

                  Re: @AC "wouldn't be common freakin' sense to not surf dodgy websites at work?"

                  As early as the early 1980s, Internet bandwidth getting maxed out always meant porn.

                  1980s porn being ASCII porn. As in (.) (.) . If you mean anything more ambitious, I'll refer you to this from my blog.

                  I guess you never worked in a data-heavy environment.

                  First web server I set up for $work was about access to satellite image data. The expectation was that clients would order the actual data on tape[1], but I convinced management to allow limited online actual download. The limit was eventually set to 10Mb, for those whose line would hold up for the very long time that would take.

                  [1] The fact they could use a nice WWW GUI including an applet to select a dataset from an interactive and zoomable map display was radical for the time. A few years later ('96 or '97) Java applets arrived and some of that capability migrated to clientside.

                  1. jake Silver badge

                    Re: @AC "wouldn't be common freakin' sense to not surf dodgy websites at work?"

                    No, Nick, we had real pornographic computer images in the late 1970s. Not very good images, mind, but they existed. It was crude technology, but it worked. How crude? Look up CROMEMCO's Cyclops and Dazzler (1975). Things rapidly improved from there (how could they not?), and by the mid 1980s .tga made it's appearance ... As did SGI. And trust me, as soon as bit-mapped displays showed up, there was porn on them. It would seem to be human nature.

                    The Great Renaming (1987) was arguably brought about partially because of the binaries that were being posted at random all over USENET. As a guy who ran a news farm back then, I can assure you that most of said binaries had been porn since roughly late 1982.

                    Data heavy? Does SLAC count? How about Bigger Blue? We could see a spike in traffic when someone was eyeballing porn, even in the old days. Maybe especially in the old days, when practically every byte of connectivity had to be accounted for.

                    1. MCMLXV

                      Re: @AC "wouldn't be common freakin' sense to not surf dodgy websites at work?"

                      Fuck me, but you're such a self-centred twat, jake. Almost every sentence, every pronouncement begins with I: I have, I owned, I used, I'm the boss of, etc. et ad nauseam. I remember you recommending "wild-caught yeast" for a recipe. Wild-caught feckin yeast? To an audience of techies who mostly llive in massive conurbations? If I remember right, you live in Sonoma. I don't know how the "no" sneaked in.

                      1. jake Silver badge

                        Re: @AC "wouldn't be common freakin' sense to not surf dodgy websites at work?"

                        So, MCMLXV, I'm a self-centered twat for commenting on topic, relating life experience from a few dozen years in IT? Presumably, all the other ElReg commentards who have similarly commented in this thread are also self-centered twats? That's a mighty wide brush you tar with, pardner.

                        And what's wrong with wild-caught yeast? I've caught yeast in London (city of), Manhattan and Toronto. They all make good bread, with slightly different rise times, flavo(u)rs and textures. You have an issue with that? Maybe you should try learning to bake bread (as many of the techies here profess to do!), you might discover you enjoy sharing the fruits of your labo(u)rs with your nearest & dearest. Much better than finding fault with a meaningless poster on an obscure Internet forum, no?

                        Not sure what the name of a town that existed over 100 years before I was born has to do with your rant. But I'm sure you can elucidate. Perhaps without the ad-hom this time?

                        Hint: Search on "wild caught yeast" in the search engine of your choice. Yes, it even works in your favo(u)rite massive conurbation.

                  2. heyrick Silver badge

                    Re: @AC "wouldn't be common freakin' sense to not surf dodgy websites at work?"

                    " you mean anything more ambitious, I'll refer you to this from my blog"

                    You might have had a point had you said you'd not inadvertently stumbled into kiddie porn, however adult porn is everywhere.

                    Google "cute Japanese girl" because you're looking for a nice backdrop. The top set of links is from a site called pornhub. Switch to image list and it's fifty-fifty as to whether or not the girl pictured is in underwear, or less. Evidently "cute" has a different meaning online. But then there is also the infamous "rule 34" to consider. Porn is everywhere.

                    It was like this a decade ago, it's like this now, it'll be like this a decade from now...

                    1. Jtom

                      Re: @AC "wouldn't be common freakin' sense to not surf dodgy websites at work?"

                      I was researching for new voice platforms for advanced services (or so they were back then) for a telco. I put the obvious words in a search engine: telephone platform voice services price. An amazing number of porn sites came up (“platform shoes”, “sultry voice”, “telephone sex”, services and price (no explanation needed)). Scared to death that I would be accused of porn surfing. Learned quickly to include a few highly technical terms.

                2. phuzz Silver badge

                  Re: @AC "wouldn't be common freakin' sense to not surf dodgy websites at work?"

                  I've been told the tale of a sysadmin at a particular university, who would take advantage of their JANET connection to download effectively all of the new images on Usenet daily, and would archive to tape to take home.

                  No points for guessing what sorts of images.

                3. Alan Brown Silver badge

                  Re: @AC "wouldn't be common freakin' sense to not surf dodgy websites at work?"

                  "The ladies started surfing porn around 15 years ago, and are now (roughly) equal to the men. Obviously, those stats are in companies without cluefull network administration."

                  FWIW, when I did time in a video rental store (remember those?), women were by far the more prolific hirers of porn, usually hitting the weird hardcore and gay male porn harder than men hit the lesbian stuff.

                  That's about when I realised that there's little difference between the sexes, confirmed a couple years later when one of my cow-orkers started complaining about his daughters (plural) watching hardcore gay porn on the family widescreen TV and him being confronted with this as he walked in the front door. (Still back in VHS days). GoatSe images appeared a long time before the Internet.

                4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
                  Coat

                  The ladies started surfing porn around 15 years ago, and are now (roughly) equal to the men.

                  Equality.

                  It's not just for the good things of human nature, like pay.

              2. Nick Kew Silver badge

                Re: @AC "wouldn't be common freakin' sense to not surf dodgy websites at work?"

                Then there was this thing called USENET so you really didn't have to go to dodgy web sites to surf.

                Damn, I've led a sheltered life. Never encountered usenet binaries: they were one of those mythical things.

            4. Nick Kew Silver badge

              Re: "wouldn't be common freakin' sense to not surf dodgy websites at work?"

              2) (In the 1990s) It is faster than my 56K connection

              You've led a sheltered life there.

              56K? Pah. I was lucky to get 56 bytes. Per minute, at work, and home was little better.

            5. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

              Re: "wouldn't be common freakin' sense to not surf dodgy websites at work?"

              You'd think,... but in the late 90s I worked for an ISP, and we had a large, open plan call centre. So one member of call centre staff is caught watching porn. Not just any porn though, apparently it was several males in bondage gear and one well endowed blonde lady.

              So my colleague had to print off the offending image for HR to use in the offender's dismissal. He'd just fixed a printing problem for the Chief Exec, so his default printer was in his boss's boss's boss's office. Dwarf porn plopped out in the corner office. Lucky, boss man was in a meeting elsewhere.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Workplace Darwin Awards?

            My boss has a letter from HR explicitly giving him permission to surf dodgy stuff at work(this was from the days of having a Web portal and permission was never rescinded). He keeps muttering about getting it framed.

            I've also had 3 different managers permission to look at such pages when chasing down a script hijacking.

            Fun times all round.

            and the lesson from all this? Get HRs permission first...

          4. Muscleguy Silver badge

            Re: Workplace Darwin Awards?

            Scene: a 4 desk office of Biology lab space around 2000ish. I was, honest guv, genuinely seeking more up to date figures on variations in muscle anatomy in humans than contained in the lab's very ancient copy of Grey's Anatomy (the anatomy tome, not the later cop show). I put 'Human Anatomy' into a search engine and clicked a likely looking link and my browser was suddenly filled with multiplying pages of PRON!

            Fortunately I was alone in the office at the time and none of my female officemates was there. I hurriedly reached under the desk and hit the power button on my G4 power mac. A close run thing.

            Though I did have a colleague in mid 90s who was fond of looking up humans and animals doing naughty things in the middle of the lab. He's probably a Consultant in a hospital near you about now.

          5. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Workplace Darwin Awards?

            Whilst you would think so, the logs often showed this not to be the case. Shortly after we compiled the first anonymised list of inappropriate web access in 1995 we got an email from the CEO of our international bank explaining how he "accidently" clicked on a "dodgy" link from a friend while showing the female head of HR "how the internet worked". After a few clicks apparently she advised him it would be best not to go further. How convenient to have the head of employee relations there to confirm that it all was a genuine accident. Fortunately for him it didn't impact his financial career or subsequent high political office.

          6. 's water music Silver badge
            Gimp

            Re: Workplace Darwin Awards?

            In a large professional services firm sometime in the 00s I worked in a team that turned on SMS inventory collection of shortcuts. This included browser Favourites for IE. We turned that off again pretty quickly.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Whatever Happened to WAP?

          @A.P. Veening; Weeellll... if you want to be pedantic, the article says this happened "back in the late '90s", and both the first WAP phone and site came out in late 1999.

          So it's technically possible they could have been browsing smutty Internet web sites (well, WAP sites anyway) in "glorious" (cough) WAP text.

          But now that I think of it, they wouldn't have been doing so through their employer's WiFi- if they'd had WiFi at all, which they probably didn't back then, so that torpedoes my smartassery.

          As does the fact I don't think anyone ever actually used WAP when they realised that "the Internet on your phone" back then was less "Hackers"-style zooming through cyberspace and more being limited to a paltry number of specially-designed WAP sites you read through five lines at a time and attempted to navigate via an SMS-style numeric keypad while you paid through the nose for a per-minute connection.

          You're right- that would have been pretty hard. And unpleasant. And unlikely.

          1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

            Re: Whatever Happened to WAP?

            Nokia Communicators predated WAP, and had "full" graphic browsing support, as I used to smugly mention to anyone that laughed at one of my bricks.

            https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nokia_9000_Communicator#9110

      2. arctic_haze Silver badge

        Re: What a cunt!

        I would fuse Lesson #1 and #2 into "No private surfing at work" but I would sound like a very anal person. The only reason it works with me is I actually have no time for that. I dread the day by boss realizes I practically never sit down behind my desk but rather spend time talking to people (this is how I do management tasks). He could have tried to save some space and money on my office :)

      3. Criggie

        Re: What a cunt!

        lesson #3 - Never use your personal accounts on work machines, nor your work accounts on personal machines. Else Synching might bring over your web history which then looks like you're doing home stuff on work time.

    3. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      Devil

      @_LC_ Re: What a cunt!

      I wouldn't say that...

      If anything it was the person who called in the auditors and of course before they fired anyone they needed to have a policy in place forbidding the surfing of questionable sites.

      If you think this is bad, my friend worked as part of an exchange's in house counsel and some of the stuff traders used to do would make even a salty sailor blush. And they got to keep their jobs and in some cases seats on the exchange. We'd hear about it at happy hour, of course names omitted to protect the guilty.

      Sorry, but if you were dumb enough to surf for porn on company time and equipment, you deserved it.

      For the rest of us... there was USENET.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: @_LC_ What a cunt!

        "Sorry, but if you were dumb enough to surf for porn on company time and equipment, you deserved it."

        Correct. You're supposed to be working at work, not wanking. Frankly, I'm really surprised that all the commentardary here on ElReg grinds to a halt over the weekend ... until London wakes up again on Monday morning, which makes me suspect most of you are posting from work! Do all y'all's bosses know how much company time you fritter away here on ElReg?

        "For the rest of us... there was USENET."

        Still is. But you'll cause a spike in traffic anyway. And I'll fire your ass if you try it on my watch.

  2. malle-herbert
    Coat

    And that's why...

    Using HTTPS everywhere is a good idea....

    1. Dwarf Silver badge

      Re: And that's why...

      using https won't make the proxy logs safe, it still contains the full URL

      1. John Miles

        Re: using https won't make the proxy logs safe,

        Especially when the Proxy man in the middles you - which is what happens where I work, with a few exceptions (e.g. Amazon & Bank websites) the certificate is related to the proxy not the one issued to the site.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: using https won't make the proxy logs safe,

          "Especially when the Proxy man in the middles you"

          Which is why most browsers these days flag up 12 foot high warnings that the certificate doesn't match the site.

          1. John Miles

            Re: warnings that the certificate doesn't match the site.

            Not if they have updated the browser to trust the internal certificate authorit's root certificate - it doesn't even complain for sites like Google (use a browser without their interference and it will tell you untrusted)

      2. tomgreenwood

        Re: And that's why...

        For HTTPS connections, the proxy logs won't have the full URL, they will just have the domain part of the URL. So they know what site you've been on but not what you were looking at.

        Maybe they can infer from the size of the download whether you were watching normal porn or midget porn. Finally, a potential use case for machine learning.

        "I was just checking out the head office address so I could send them a large thank you package." seems reasonable enough.

    2. 45RPM

      Re: And that's why...

      Nope - that’s why VPN to your own private VPN server is a good idea.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And that's why...

        We MITM all HTTPS traffic. And a VPN to private VPN server would need heavy tinkering to work.

        Both are easy to implement.

        1. StargateSg7 Bronze badge

          Re: And that's why...

          This is why I like to use my OWN encryption to my multiple outside servers so even IF they use a Man-in-the-Middle server, all they see is a destination server which changes every few seconds AND has encrypted-packet-within-a-packet infrastructure I developed myself. Works like a charm!

          All they see is encrypted data inside each packet which contains my PERSONALLY-DESIGNED IP-V7 designed packet structure which changes encrypt codes literally every few seconds and reroutes my packets to the appropriate destination! It also helps to have a custom developed web browser which can support such advanced proxy surfing and packet-within-a-packet infrastructure!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: And that's why...

            Jesus, is it so hard to just get on with some work instead?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: And that's why...

            Did you add your own random number generator to the pool too? You know, to make the random "more random"?

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: And that's why...

            sarcasm, right?

          4. Wexford

            Re: And that's why...

            Pfft, my IPv8 MITM laughs at your IPv7!

      2. Gordan

        Re: And that's why...

        You are overthinking it.

        ssh -D 1080 user@your.server

        Set Firefox to use localhost:1080 as socks5 proxy with remote DNS lookups.

        No need to mess about with DNS or anything of the sort. You just have to find a port that isn't filtered by the firewall and run sshd on that port on your.server.

        1. Trixr Bronze badge

          Re: And that's why...

          Good luck finding anything that *isn't* filtered on a real enterprise network. Even outbound 80/443 filtered unless coming via the proxy.

    3. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: And that's why...

      It was the late 90s. And that, in these times, won't stop seeing what you're viewing if you're going via a proxy. And any private VPN at work wouldn't be allowed.

      1. Symon Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: And that's why...

        "any private VPN at work wouldn't be allowed"

        I'm pretty sure the commentards here would know how to tunnel their OpenVPN link through port 443. Maybe using stunnel. How is anyone gonna detect, let alone stop, that without banning almost all internet access to https websites?

        p.s. Try searching for ways around the Chinese Great Firewall. Plenty of hints and tips there! Merry Xmas!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And that's why...

          The firewalls MITM and inspect all HTTPS packets. VPN over HTTPS and (obviously) non-HTTPS traffic is dropped. And logged. Not 100% proof since nothing is.

          SSLVPN from China is a hit and miss, connections may work for a while and then stop. I think that's down to different ISPs but I haven't bothered to troubleshoot, not my problem. ;-)

          1. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

            Re: And that's why...

            "not my problem. ;-)"

            That's the spirit.

        2. Paul Stimpson

          Re: And that's why...

          I'm pretty sure either the Palo Alto or Bluecoat firewalls we have at work check SSL sessions for validity and detect VPN traffic masquerading as SSL. The Infoblox DNS servers detect and report VPN DNS tunneling.

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Childcatcher

            Re: And that's why...

            I have my personal laptop on my desk with my very generous data plan acting as a hotspot, for anything dodgy or time killing.

            This weeks post Christmas lull was spent firing up the VPN & streaming Outnumbered (See Icon) from I-Player, while I did my normal work.

            1. P. Lee Silver badge

              Re: And that's why...

              Exactly.

              Everyone sees the problem with running on someone else's systems.

              And yet... cloud! It seems like some people never learn.

              Early 90's, we barely had firewalls. Most lans were ipx and just the smtp gateway had ip. Pick an IP address from the class c assigned, fire up chameleon and off you go!

          2. TheMeerkat

            Re: And that's why...

            The actual reason is simple. It tries to decrypt SSL and fails closed :)

        3. Brad Ackerman

          Re: And that's why...

          Proxies can also be set to only permit categorized pages, in addition to blacklisting pr0n or whatever.

        4. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: And that's why...

          "p.s. Try searching for ways around the Chinese Great Firewall."

          As I've had to explain to cow-orkers: The issue isn't "working around" the great firewall. It's what happens when you get caught doing so.

          In the case of China, there are a lot of rules and they will use them to throw the book at someone who's annoyed them. (Which is why we warn staff it's a criminal offence in china to bypass the firewall and not to do so when there)

          In the case of "your employer" it's backdooring security and a trip to the door escorted by a couple of guys from security - they'll send your stuff later - maybe - when they've finished going through it to see what damage you may have done.

        5. gnarlymarley Bronze badge

          Re: And that's why...

          I'm pretty sure the commentards here would know how to tunnel their OpenVPN link through port 443. Maybe using stunnel. How is anyone gonna detect, let alone stop, that without banning almost all internet access to https websites?

          My work has both 80 and 443 blocked. To get to those, you must use the proxy. Of course, port 22 is open, but when you have windows logging setup for the browser to pass all the websites back (using a microsoft domain policy) to the mail logging server, why would you even chance something like this. If you manage to get past the proxy, then the browsers will report you anyway.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: And that's why...

            Firefox portable app.

            1. Trixr Bronze badge

              Re: And that's why...

              And when you're using application whitelisting, and Firefox (Portable) is not on the whitelist, good luck.

  3. Banksy

    Access Denied

    I'm surprised they could access those sites in the first place.

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

      Re: Access Denied

      T'was the 90s. Besides, even now with the block-everything-till-someones-fills-the-paperwork approach, the blocked URL will still show up in the logs, even though you won't access the page ("The website you are trying to access contains freeware, shareware or open source software and has been blocked. If your work require material from this page, please fill the form at [link] to have the page* unblocked. Be informed that your manager will be asked to approve your request." ; better not need to review that patch on github anytime soom then)

      *yes, 'page', not 'website'

      1. Gordan

        Re: Access Denied

        It works for some people - namely those that like all the work prevention devices that enable them to spend an hour on some work, half a day on admin to actually work around the security measures, and the rest to slack off.

        Of course it will drive everyone who actually enjoys being productive nuts in days and they'll probably choose to leave guilt free on 1 day's notice before their probation period is up.

    2. Alan J. Wylie

      Re: Access Denied

      My experience in the late '90s was that you had to be very careful about blocking on keywords in domains. https://www.essex.ac.uk/ anyone? (Yes - a genuine example that I came across).

      1. Unicornpiss Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Access Denied

        "My experience in the late '90s was that you had to be very careful about blocking on keywords in domains. https://www.essex.ac.uk/ anyone? (Yes - a genuine example that I came across)."

        Well, you'd never be able to apply for a job at Research in Motion (www.rimjobs.com)

        1. Symon Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Access Denied

          Especially a big job in Scunthorpe.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Access Denied

            I'm surprised URLs containing the keyword BBC don't get banned more often.

            1. Sequin

              Re: Access Denied

              I subscribe to a weekly email quiz, and the creator numbers them in Roman numerals. Whenever he sends out a mail with the number 30 in it (e.g. 130, 330 etc) he has to change to Arabic numerals as so many email filters will reject mails with XXX in the subject line.

              1. Sandtitz Silver badge

                Roman numerals @Sequin

                To quote Asimov about Roman numerals:

                "But why? Where's the need? To be sure, you will find Roman numerals on cornerstones and gravestones, on clockfaces and on some public buildings and documents, but it isn't used for any need at all. It is used for show, for status, for antique flavor, for a craving for some kind of phony classicism.

                I dare say there are some sentimental fellows who feel that knowledge of the Roman numerals is a kind of gateway to history and culture; that scrapping them would be like knocking over what is left of the Parthenon, but I have no patience with such mawkishness. We might as well suggest that everyone who learns to drive a car be required to spend some time at the wheel of a Model-T Ford so he could get the flavor of early cardom."

                1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

                  Re: Roman numerals @Sequin

                  Roman numerals are like caps lock for numbers; they're a meta channel for conveying contextual information and a variation that adds to the rich texture of English.

                  after all we could do away with capital letters and punctuation because you dont use them in speech although perhaps theres a need to indicate a pause or the rising intonation of a question but why not go for the minimum and while were at it switch to phonetic spelling and get rid of any words whose meaning is so similar as to be all but identical to another

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Access Denied

            It looks as if we're getting back to the bad old days when residents of Scunthorpe and Penistone had trouble signing up to stuff: https://linux.slashdot.org/story/18/12/20/1753257/debians-anti-harassment-team-is-removing-a-package-over-its-name In fact residents of Titchfield might have the same problem.

          3. ricardian

            Re: Access Denied

            Or Penistone

      2. Boork!
        Unhappy

        Re: Access Denied

        There was a list of websites whose names took on unfortunate connotations when concatenated into a URL. Among them were Pen Island Stationers and Mole Station Creche.

        1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

          Re: Access Denied

          The pen is mightier than the sword; therapist will concur.

        2. Goldmember

          Re: Access Denied

          "There was a list of websites whose names took on unfortunate connotations when concatenated into a URL. Among them were Pen Island Stationers and Mole Station Creche."

          And Experts Exchange. When they started appearing in "unfortunately named websites" lists, they added a redirect to a domain with a hyphen.

          1. IceC0ld Silver badge

            Re: Access Denied

            "There was a list of websites whose names took on unfortunate connotations when concatenated into a URL. Among them were Pen Island Stationers and Mole Station Creche."

            And Experts Exchange. When they started appearing in "unfortunately named websites" lists, they added a redirect to a domain with a hyphen.

            ===

            wasn't there an issue when SuBo had her latest CD release ?

            all invited to see at www.susanalbumparty...................................

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Access Denied

              "wasn't there an issue when SuBo had her latest CD release ?

              all invited to see at www.susanalbumparty"

              Obligatory DIlbert: https://dilbert.com/strip/2000-08-19

          2. Nick Kew Silver badge

            Re: Access Denied

            @Goldmember - I'd veto them on grounds of the prolific spam they inflicted.

        3. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: Access Denied

          And an Italian battery supplier called Powergen Italia.

          1. Brad Ackerman

            Re: Access Denied

            That one's bogus, but presumably too funny to fact-check.

        4. cantankerous swineherd

          Re: Access Denied

          powergen Italia was my favourite.

      3. Chris King Silver badge

        Re: Access Denied

        It wasn't just URL's that were affected. An over-enthusiastic regex test in SpamAssassin (FUZZY_XPILL ?) would trigger if people used "Oxon" instead of "Oxfordshire" in a snail-mail address in their signature - stick the postcode straight after it (OX whatever), and you got flagged as pink-and-porky for peddling pills.

        That made dealing with JANET and Travelodge... Interesting... for a while.

      4. Davegoody

        Re: Access Denied

        sCUNThorpe.gov.uk was another one

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Access Denied

        Company I worked for blocked "virginatlantic.com" as a "sex site" for a time.

        As for accessing "dodgy websites" ... in the early days of the web NCSA (who produced Mosaic which was the first significant browser) maintained a "new web sites this month" page (it later changed to this week and then they gave up tracking new sites!) and on of the early listings was from the CS dept of a Dutch University (?Delft) which proudly advertised that its website contained the largest collection of online porn in Europe!

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Access Denied

          "which proudly advertised that its website contained the largest collection of online porn in Europe!"

          They claimed "in the world!" until I pointed out an unnamed, dotted quad accessible anonymous FTP site located in Berkeley IP space that was basically a USENET binaries archive.

      6. swm Bronze badge

        Re: Access Denied

        How about xxx.lanl.gov?

  4. handle bars

    Merrill Lynch Investment Funds was often mis-typed into search boxes - but I remember the crack down on work internet use and the "sniffers" compliance for HR put on email & web site use just happened to coincide with a need early 2000s for a head count reduction & looked a cheap way to bin people

  5. Alan J. Wylie

    Many years ago, we had an ISDN connection at the office, and a bank of modems. HTTP connections were forced to go through a Squid proxy. I had a similar little script which grepped the log for "interesting" keywords, but not much interest was shown in this from above.

    However, one day all our sales people and managers were gathered together at a hotel for a big meeting. One of my colleagues in network admin was due to address them, and took the opportunity to remind them that, as in the T's and C's they had acknowledged, our network was monitored for inappropriate (and expensive: on-demand ISDN had a per-call cost) usage. There were no sackings as a result, just a few red faces as he stood at the lectern and read out a few of the less unsafe-for-work domains that had been visited the previous night.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had the opposite

    My setup included a script to remove certain NSFW URLs from the firewall logs before they were processed to produce usage reports.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: I had the opposite

      Be very careful with that one as it can come back to bite you. Certain manglement types might thank you for it, if high ups get wind and are of a certain mindset, it could cost you.

    2. Gordan

      Re: I had the opposite

      Most considerate of you. Some serious karma hoarding going on there. ;-)

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: I had the opposite

        Out o'curiosity, why would one hoard karma? To do so would be bad karma, no? And, almost by definition, the result would be pretty much exponential, Shirley. Sort of like a ball of shit rolling down a hill of shit, becoming a larger ball of shit of ever increasing size.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The mistake was to use them for blackmailing intead of simply blocking the domains

    Here employees remote monitoring is explicitly forbidden, thereby that behaviour would be illegal from the beginning. If you find accesses to illegal material and sites that could put the whole company in trouble, you have to follow the proper procedures to identify the culprits and sack them (of course, unless they are executives high enough who just leave 'to follow new opportunities'...)

    Of course you can backlist the domains, instead of blackmailing people, no matter how disgusting they could be.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: The mistake was to use them for blackmailing intead of simply blocking the domains

      > Here employees remote monitoring is explicitly forbidden

      I don't see how you can forbid monitoring of company resources. Using the company's bandwidth to surf porn is not very different from using the expensive Haas CNC to machine something pornographic/offensive. Reading the access logs is no different from walking over to see what your employee is working on.

      1. davenewman

        Re: He made one mistake

        You can forbid companies monitoring employees if you are in a country with strict privacy laws, like Germany.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The mistake was to use them for blackmailing intead of simply blocking the domains

        You can monitor company resources. Just you can't match easily their use with people, especially when it comes to sensitive data - the mistake he did was to match the data with people identities.

        If you do, without the required permissions, you can end in big troubles. Remember also most European privacy laws, and now GDPR, regard sexual preferences as highly sensitive data, and their collection and use is highly restricted. It can put the whole company in trouble.

        Years ago I was involved in the creation of a monitoring software to prevent the leak of highly sensitive documents. It had network probes that collected traffic and appliances that rebuilt it to identify documents going where they shouldn't. We had to protect the collected information to a great extent. Any possible personal identifier, including IP addresses, were strongly protected. When a possible data leak was identified, to decrypt data those three people were needed to enter their credentials (from security, upper management, and legal), and a union representative was present. All actions were logged for auditing, and a separate auditor could check which data were accessed (but not the actual data), and why. Workers were notified the system was active. Only banking and healthcare domains were exempt.

        We did get porn too, of course - all workers were notified using company resources for such activities was forbidden and could put someone in trouble. Accessing illegal contents would have triggered a notification to law enforcement, and the company would have given all required evidence under a warrant.

      3. jake Silver badge

        Re: The mistake was to use them for blackmailing intead of simply blocking the domains

        "using the expensive Haas CNC to machine something pornographic/offensive."

        I know folks who would consider such a CNC pornography all by itself. Shit, people drool over my aging Bridgeport ...

        1. StargateSg7 Bronze badge

          Re: The mistake was to use them for blackmailing intead of simply blocking the domains

          I did notice at one of the "companies I once had an affiliation with decades ago", that a LOT of extra 30x15x30 cm clear acrylic blocks were being ordered for the 5-axis CNC systems along with LOTS of the super-fine polishing grit for the enclosed surface finisher machines which are like polishing-oriented sandblasters which can make plastic or glass PERFECTLY smooth!

          I had heard on the grapevine that one of the junior-to-me "egghead" CAD/CAM specialists was rumoured to have made a financial killing off of the many young and old ladies and certain men in said company after it was found that production runs of certain objects of coital enhancement were made in-between the overnight client CNC runs.

          In those days you had to use MULTIPLE FLOPPY DISKS (yes! real 1.2 megabyte floppy disks!) to upload a 3D model (pretty high resolution too!) to the internal memory of a CNC machine which then drives the acrylic-specific carving bits on the CNC machine. Someone then had to unload the finished blocks, use a bandsaw to cut off the base of the carving and glue the finished product to another plastic base for fine polishing in the sandlbaster-like polishing enclosure.

          Since the machinery couldn't be be turned off for whatever mechanical reason since the factory was a 24/7/365 operation, in-between the client CNC machining runs, staff tended to run off their own projects in-between the custom client object CNC runs. They were supposed-to use the normally recycled material cut-offs but staff were allowed to do their own projects so as to "increase" their CAD/CAM/CNC experience for the company benefit.

          Evidently, some staff took this project freedom to new lengths by making custom 3D-modelled body-extremis objects which I was told came directly from a 3D scan (which was EXPENSIVE to do in those days!) of a rather well-known and very much objectified-by-the-ladies staff member who was said to resemble Adonis.

          The CAD/CAM/CNC expert was able to make enough money over a few years that he bought a NEW Land Rover Defender! He left the company after almost a decade to open his own CAD/CAM/CNC shop and senior staff were never the wiser (or they chose to turn a deliberate blind eye to the shenanigans!) I had already left by then on other contracts but I did hear through further anecdotes that the said egghead was well regarded for his CAD/CAM/CNC modelling/carving expertise! I always did wonder if the ORIGINAL 3D model was ever properly compensated (i.e. financially or otherwise!) for the 3D reproduction of his well-known "wares"!

          .

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The mistake was to use them for blackmailing intead of simply blocking the domains

        Reading the access logs is no different from walking over to see what your employee is working on.

        Logically and rationally, yes. But the way that the law has been written in some jurisdictions affords employees a right to privacy that then (I presume unintentionally) cloaks activities that they could be sacked for.

        Nothing new here - most laws are very poorly drafted, leading to geometric increases in the volume and complexity of statute law, declining levels of understanding of the law, and plenty of unintended consequences. Couple that with cloth eared and slow to react governments, and the unintended consequences snowball - like in the case of tax tourism by large corporations.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: of course, unless they are executives high enough who just leave 'to follow new opportunities'

      Many years ago I came a across a case where the person breaching the rules was a senior partner and actually one of those who'd voted in the rules. When confronted with the evidence of his surfing he just said "It's my F****ing Company and I'll F****ing well look at anything I..." you get the picture. In the end a private Internet line was run into his office with a separate PC not connected to the company network so he could perv away in peace.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: of course, unless they are executives high enough who just leave 'to follow new opportunities'

        so in german schools it is forbidden to monitor web access? Wow, that would make life so much easier for IT.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: of course, unless they are executives high enough who just leave 'to follow new opportunities'

          "so in german schools it is forbidden to monitor web access?"

          It can be and is monitored and inappropriate sites are blocked, it just isn't allowed to trace it back to the individual visiting the site (some legal exceptions possible in case of threat to life, limb or health).

      2. Simon Reed

        Re: of course, unless they are executives high enough who just leave 'to follow new opportunities'

        A similar thing happened at a local authority I worked at some years ago. The councillors voted that they should get access to council systems from home courtesy of the council. So they got PCs and access to the council systems via the council networks. When they did web surfing on these council-provided desktops, it went through the council web cache so it was all logged just like the staff internet access.

        When it was pointed out by someone in IT they were spending huge amounts of time surfing for porn, the councillors decided their internet access should be private and not monitored by the staff. So they had their free internet access changed to stand-alone laptops and free broadband at home. Meaning their porn browsing was still paid for by the council but now unmonitored.

        Democracy, eh?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Of course you can backlist the domains..

      Yep. Facebook, Twitter , Amazon etc are all blacklisted here.

      Back to work you lazy b******s. The holidays are over. /s /s /s

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Of course you can backlist the domains..

        "Yep. Facebook, Twitter , Amazon etc are all blacklisted here."

        One of the things I rather quickly discovered in the early 1990s when attempting to block URLs and domains via a squid proxy is the plethora of domain names that pop up as alternates.

        I think we gave up trying to stop students accessing penthouse.com when we got up to 1500 domain names which went to the same website - it's about then that the realisation that technical solutions to sociological problems either don't work or end up being walnut-crushing 40 tonne steam hammers that block far more than intended.

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Re: Of course you can backlist the domains..

          not sure on the downvotes, as a previous head of IT in a school we had a major job of tracking and tracing web activity for anti bullying, PREVENT strategy, grooming logs and all sorts of safeguarding incidents. This was mandated by the LEA and council - not something we made up or decided to do ourselves. Not only did we log websites but PC activity too, the logs were collected by other agencies as part of investigations too (police, childrens services etc). This was a very large school with some shady sorts so there was usually a major incident annually.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I actually did the reverse once..

    Once upon a time I worked for a then rather well known provider, and we were the provider for a very large bit of infrastructure which shall remain nameless.

    During the build, a requirement was mooted that we ought to log all network traffic. This would have demanded large amounts of storage which was not really planned or budgeted for, so the search was on for an argument that would get that demand off the table (also because it would add a lot of hassle to a project that was already on tight timescales as it was). I decided to run some test logs, just to see what we could be facing, and what I got back from one of the participating parties was, er, worthy of further investigation because it was dodgy as heck.

    Now I'm not one to cry wolf without some further (careful) investigating, and so it emerged there was a legitimate reason for the traffic - that specific party was busy with research (at least, that's what I was told, but the speed & duration of the visits corroborated the stated automated nature of the effort).

    The upshot was that I had some dumps of these logs with me for the next project meeting, and before we started I had a quiet word with the big cheese of the project who notably blanched when noting some of the URLs on the printout. We quietly agreed that logging traffic would best not fall under our responsibility, but would, instead, remain the purview of each participating party "to protect confidentiality", and so it was suggested and agreed in the meeting that followed.

    Sometimes it's just a matter of finding the right data :).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I actually did the reverse once..

      > would have demanded large amounts of storage which was not really planned or budgeted for, so the search was on for an argument that would get that demand off the table

      Err, how about "if you pay for the storage, we'll do the logging"?

      That's how I shoot down stupid requests here, like "how about we spin up 6 new Oracle instances on that Pentium III with a 10gb drive?". I'd probably get pushback that my storage requirements are bullshit, but that's something I can prove.

      If it's really necessary, the storage funds will get approved, but usually it's not necessary at all.

      1. Brad Ackerman
        Holmes

        Re: I actually did the reverse once..

        If it's really necessary, the storage funds will get approved, but usually it's not necessary at all.

        The closer you get to the end of the fiscal year, the more important spending money becomes.

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: I actually did the reverse once..

      - that specific party was busy with research (at least, that's what I was told, but the speed & duration of the visits corroborated the stated automated nature of the effort). ... AC

      That is surely Man and Machines thinking as Each Other along Similar Familiar Lines ..... with Firm Favourite Frolicks to Enjoy and Entertain/Submit and Surrender to Absolutely ..... for the Power and Energy when the 2 be as 1 and Nothing is in Hiding or Forbidden for Leading Pleasant Reactions with NEUKlearer HyperRadioProACTive IT Systems of Remote Virtual Operation Available for AI Beta Test Drivering of New Future Programs.

      Is LOVE, a Live Operational Virtual Environment for the Future in Greater IntelAIgent Games Play with Newly Mined and Minted Memory Expanding upon Novel Future Source Supply.

      And Made Freely Available for Heavenly Use in Devilish Misuse and Diabolical Abuse.

      You will have to use your most excellent thoughts to fully appreciate the Tormented and Tempestuous Blisses for InterNetional Rescue Servering Services there.

      El Reg,

      You might like to think to be concerned or excited because the AIMachine is Running ITself In with Information for and from Wells Deep within Collapsed Star Systems/Distressed SCADA Operations ...... and IT Goes Deep See Phishing for Future Harvest Suppliers of Prime Providing Product.

      The Money Shot Question is .... Who and/or What Provides the Future with Extra Terrestrial Tales to Follow and Realise? Man or AIMachine? Global Operating Devices or Humanised Beings?

      Be that for Earthly Experience or Alien Existence?

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: the Present Almighty Powerful Current Energy Situation which Fools Dismiss with Abandon

        The Money Shot Question is .... Who and/or What Provides the Future with Extra Terrestrial Tales to Follow and Realise? Man or AIMachine? Global Operating Devices or Humanised Beings?

        Be that for Earthly Experience or Alien Existence?

        And can they all be as one and the same and lead with a completely different and overwhelmingly virulent perspective in the true, easily virtualised and private pirating nature of things ‽

        The posit here of course is, of course they can, and therefore are already deeply embedded and seamlessly working stealthily with and within future technologies which your doubts and dismal dismissals are clearly providing damning evidence of a catastrophic general lack of specific knowledge and greater intelligent awareness in what are novel quantum fields of universal communication with Mighty Stupid Dumb Operating Systems and Remote SCADA Command in Virtually Practical Control Centres.

        Such easily provides and protects All Creativity with Any Prime Disruptive and/or Destructive Source with both Intangible and Invisible Forces against which there are never effective available defences.

      2. Cliff Thorburn

        Re: I actually did the reverse once..

        I often wonder if the world has reached the brink of insanity amFM, and over the Xmas period wholly considered whether there was any actual future at all, or whether an abrupt end may be the almighty way forward.

        Event + reaction = outcome, the events being those both created and presented by others.

        The Running Man was never created with no one to run.

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          What do you Want? A Future Soft Armageddon or Hard Apocalypse Now? It's make up your mind time

          I often wonder if the world has reached the brink of insanity amFM, and over the Xmas period wholly considered whether there was any actual future at all, or whether an abrupt end may be the almighty way forward. ... Cliff Thorburn

          How about fighting fire with fire, CT, and dousing insanity with a tailored madness and mayhem to render an almighty way forward in CHAOS with Clouds Hosting Advanced Operating Systems.

          amanfromMars [1812271713] .... beta testing hot spot springs on https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-12-27/something-wrong-deutsche-bank-spots-odd-market-divergence

          Perhaps AIDisturbance Spot Markets Pimping and Pumping Advanced IntelAIgent Systems are the Opportunity to Seize and Sequester ...... A Question for Mullers and Mullahs Alike re Future Years in Play .... if Crashing and Crushing Capital Base Markets in The Older Way of Doing Great Things with Sublime Orders to Nth Degrees?

          Certainly not doing anything new or very little different in the future is going to change nothing in the present so that the past and its cronies can reap the whirlwind and milk the cash cow ..... but that only remains the status quo position whenever in absolute practical command and remote virtual control of hearts and minds capturing narratives .... and that is certainly made no easy great task nowadays with so much greater intelligence available to look into and out the tales which mass mainstream multi-media moguls sell as news, both fake or otherwise, to server to arrogant puppet state investors and ignorant muppet hordes alike.

          It is not as if it is too difficult to do easily with all of this new fangled and entangled virtual technology at our fingertips.

  9. defiler Silver badge

    Mid 1990s at a solicitor

    They had Netware 3, so it was an IPX network. Then there was an IPX->IP gateway, which (of course) logged website access. One of the senior partners was flagged in the logs on gay porn sites (interesting because he was married with kids), during office hours, and frequenting the subscription areas (which were paid with his company card).

    We passed it up the chain as an external IT provider. The Managing Partner mentioned porn browsing (at the time she didn't know it was gay subscription whatever blah blah), and half the room went very pink and quiet, apparently.

    Yeah - we use WebTitan these day - MITM for HTTPS. The cert is deployed by GPO. Fun, fun, fun...

    Merry Christmas!

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Mid 1990s at a solicitor

      diladele here with MITM. Again set as a subCa. Our vlan guest network has the same filter levels, as part of the documentation staff have to install the subCA root cert or they dont get https (so most of the internet really). We DPI block vpns too. Sure there will be some way around but we are an educational establishment so we need to be strict.

  10. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Trying to avoid the Wrath of Swambo?

    So surfing porn either will get you fired or divorced; both can have nasty financial consequences. Logs and browser histories are available to anyone who knows where to look or stumbles upon them. So unless you can guarantee absolutely your tracks are clear you might be heading at the door literally.

    1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

      Re: Trying to avoid the Wrath of Swambo?

      Depends on the spouse. I used to share my porn with my wife.

      1. Nick Kew Silver badge

        Re: Trying to avoid the Wrath of Swambo?

        Now that you mention it, I recollect something akin to the reverse.

        Was introduced to the Karma Sutra at age 19. Girlfriend shared it with me, not vice versa.

    2. I3N
      Coat

      Re: Trying to avoid the Wrath of Swambo?

      I'll add a third ...

      The Executive Director would meet with some of us as a group or participate in presentation training ...

      Remember he told a story of getting a call from a wife about her husband who hadn't come home from work ...

      Husband was found in front of computer with his pants down ... what was on the screen wasn't shared ...

  11. chivo243 Silver badge
    Devil

    Educated Users!

    Our users think we see everything they do. Now I wonder how they got that idea?

    Simon, do you want to say a few words?

  12. Terry 6 Silver badge

    In education

    Blocks tend to be very strict. Not surprising. But on one occasion I was forbidden access to a site containing Roman mosaics. I assume there were some naughty bits of ceramic tile in there.

    My favourite, I was trying to find a suitable cartoon for a training session. I was forbidden some sites because the content "included humour"..

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: In education

      Let me guess, the blocked comic site was Dilbert. The reason that one truly is forbidden, is because it let's us know the real truth about managers (who have their sense of humour surgically removed when they sign the contract to become manager).

      1. Fatman Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: In education

        <quote>The reason that one truly is forbidden, is because it let's us know the real truth about managers (who have their sense of humour surgically removed when they sign the contract to become manager).</quote>

        The contractual lobotomy, the prime reason why I turned down a promotion to manglement.

        Anyway, it is more """fun""" to take cheap shots at them, rather than having ones taken at you.

      2. Chris King Silver badge

        Re: In education

        Back when Dilbert was published in the Today newspaper in wobbly EddieShahVision, we used to have a "Dilbert Rota" for pinning the latest strip on the notice board if it that day's strip was relevant.

        The other guys on the rota were a fair bit taller than me, so I had to take a running jump at the board to pin it at a suitable height.

  13. dnicholas Bronze badge

    I've never worked anywhere that could afford to sack 40+ staffers in one go, must have been a big bank

    1. jake Silver badge

      Odd.

      I've rarely seen a company that wouldn't get along just fine with 40 to 60% of middle management shown the door.

      1. Alvar

        Re: Odd.

        I've rarely seen a company that wouldn't get along just fine with *the right* 40 to 60% of middle management shown the door.

        FTFY

        Unfortunately it's not usually the right ones that leave :(

        1. Killfalcon Silver badge

          Re: Odd.

          It's like that famous quote about advertising. "I know 50% of my advertising money is wasted, the trouble is I don't know which half".

          Except with middle management, the ones you most want rid of are basically only doing one thing: whatever convinces their superiors that they're the Good Ones. The ones who fail the metrics, who lack 'visibility'... those are either utterly useless (which does happen!) or too busy doing important stuff to make sure they look like they're doing important stuff.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Odd.

          "Unfortunately it's not usually the right ones that leave"

          Exactly this. Companies offer voluntary redundancy and the smart/valuable/close to retirement staff are first to sign up because they know they can go somewhere else (or be hired back for double th emoney in some cases)

          One company I worked for attempted to stop this happening and was informed in no uncertain terms that voluntary redundancies meant just that (can't refuse any until you hit your numbers and can't "encourage" certain individuals to go)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've taught people about searching for *.jpg and reminded them that work emails should never be used for personal ones no matter how frisky you're feeling. This was back in the day mind you and to be fair I've never come across anything dodgy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What a boring comment.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here at [RedactedCo], it's in the agreement every employee signs before they get their network access enabled that Internet and email access are for work use; we do have some locked-down 'kiosk' machines set up in the break areas for employees to access the internet from (obstinately to access external sites for benefit-related things such as retirement funds, healthcare, etc.), and for the large part, our employees are actually pretty good about not looking at adult sites.

    As the admin of both the internet filter and the email system, I generally don't go on random searches, because a) I'm paid to do other things; and b) there's various rules around it, not to even mention the ethics of looking up someone's browsing history for no good reason.

    Most people here are also aware that we use a filtering appliance to both keep people from looking at sites that are malicious, and are productivity sinks. (social media namely, but we do block youtube for some groups of employees.)

    Anon to protect my paycheck.

    1. dnicholas Bronze badge

      My firewall does the naughty list for me. Never seen anything sack worthy, I do randomly drop that all internet usage is monitored to certain folk, for their own good

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Porn in emails

    My first job after uni, my mates had my work email address and I often found myself on mass mailings of porn one friend was sacked from his work and the mass mailings soon stopped.

    Nowadays I no longer give my work email to friends, luckily I no longer receive any porn by email to any of my personal accounts.

    It’s amazing how many places permit ssh to anywhere.

    Properly locked down comms, with no default routes to the net & passing all user offsite traffic through a proxy is the way to go but more and more places are turning to the cloud and needing quad 0 out :(

  17. earl grey Silver badge
    Joke

    staff sacked

    I tried to keep the staff away from my sack...just sayin'

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps they should apply the same rules on PCs on the Parliamentary Estate

    and sack any offenders they find, rather than Blackmailing them to prop-up the continuing reign of Theresa Maygabe.

    1. Spanners Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Perhaps they should apply the same rules on PCs on the Parliamentary Estate

      Is there such a thing as porn in Latin or Ancient Greek?

      I've certainly seen some dodgy mosaics and pottery!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Perhaps they should apply the same rules on PCs on the Parliamentary Estate

        Is there such a thing as porn in Latin or Ancient Greek?

        There is certainly an ancient greek word for it.

      2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Perhaps they should apply the same rules on PCs on the Parliamentary Estate

        "Is there such a thing as porn in Latin or Ancient Greek?"

        If you can think of it, the ancient Greeks had a word for it.

        1. defiler Silver badge

          Re: Perhaps they should apply the same rules on PCs on the Parliamentary Estate

          If you can think of it, the ancient Greeks had a word for it.

          Rule 34, isn't it?

          1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

            Re: Perhaps they should apply the same rules on PCs on the Parliamentary Estate

            Rule XXXIV, isn't it?

            ftfy

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps they should apply the same rules on PCs on the Parliamentary Estate

      Which rules would those be? Rules that allow MPs' communications to be monitored? Good idea - until you want to write to your MP about something confidential. What was that? You don't think you should be monitored when you communicate with your MP?

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps they should apply the same rules on PCs on the Parliamentary Estate

      "and sack any offenders they find"

      Employees: it already happens (quite regularly)

      Elected(or appointed) "honourable" members of the houses - these are "self employed" and _can't_ be sacked, except via the polling booth.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We used to do the same thing back in the 1990s, but this wasn't a joke. After someone was caught with some CP on-prem we installed proxy and monitoring software, I wrote the log extraction scripts that gathered, sifted and ranked the internet proxy data and sent the weekly reports to the Sec team. We didn't tell anyone we were doing it but some people found out the hard way that surfing on the salubrious areas of the internet on work kit will get you a warning and sometimes marched offsite.

    I even had to write a testing util that had a list of 50 bad sites it would randomly pick out to test that the filter was working. Let's just say that the scum moved onto the internet very early, scanning for rascist, gambling and sex sites back in the 1990s when there were almost no guidelines meant the second you got "on site" you got the full blast of the mental sewage that some people carry around in their heads.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      The very dark side of internal security

      We used to do the same thing back in the 1990s, but this wasn't a joke. After someone was caught with some CP on-prem we installed proxy and monitoring software,

      We had one of those, but luckily we'd already got the proxy and logging. So police called, offender got fired on the spot and I think 5 years. Raised some interesting questions though, like making sure the logging could be useful as evidence. Plus policies and support for the ISG folks who sometimes had to look at some really nasty stuff. We ended up with a system where HR, ISG and counsel would view evidence and make a decision, and sometimes you could tell by their look that they'd seen something very bad.

      It still suprises me that employees still do this though, despite warnings.

  20. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I remember we played a prank on one of my colleagues back in the early 2000s who liked to waste time browsing ebay rather than working. So we changed the host file on his PC so that the ebay website would resolved to some pr0n website.

    Then we all waited for him to fire up his browser and surf to ebay. You have never seen someone shut down their browser so quickly. None of us had considered the fact that his browsing history might get him fired, but he managed to get himself sacked anyway about a year later when he was caught nicking parts from the stock room.

  21. Paul Stimpson

    Who watches the watchers?

    A friend of a friend was charged with monitoring web access, viewing questionable material to verify it was a breach of company policy and collecting evidence to initiate disciplinary proceedings at a major banking company.

    One day he told my friend that he'd discovered a prolific offender. "I can't believe this person. They spend over 6 hours a day surfing porn and don't seem to do any legitimate work. They're done as soon as the request to return a user name for the IP address comes back."

    The next day, he was much less excited. "You know that person who was surfing porn 6 hours a day?" "Yeah..." "It was me."

  22. Triumphantape

    Who does this at work?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Running a business

      My favourite wasn't porn but printing. We did a traffic analysis on a certain government department as part of planning a printer upgrade. Strangely, a number of print jobs had names like "Invoice xxx" but the work of the department didn't involve invoicing.

      Sure enough, a soon to be ex member of staff was found to be running a business at work down to printing invoices on HMGs printers and sending them out via the print room. And this had not been noticed for quite a while.

      As a result, no example of government incompetence can possibly surprise me any more.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Running a business

        Thank you for confirming that.

        When I was working at notsaying.gov.uk while doing my OU degree, I used the office printer to print off all my readings, course material and so on. I suspected everything was logged, so when printing PDFs always saved them as WorkRelatedThing.pdf before printing, rather than OpenUniversitySubjectManual.pdf

        They say I'm paranoid ... I intend to stay that way.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Running a business

          That's not paranoid. That's pragmatic.

  23. Jonathon Green

    Once upon a time in the (relatively) early days of Ye Olde Internette it was not unknown for completely innocuous, even professionally relevant material to be hosted in the same place as Very Much NSFW material, sometimes even under the same domain name.

    It’s really, really, really awkward when that gets picked up by a trawl for workplace smut surfing. DAMHIKIJK....

  24. Maelstorm
    Facepalm

    How stupid can people be? Very, apparently...

    Seriously people, here in the US, the employer is providing you with a PC and a network connection on their dime, and they expect you to do work on their behalf while on the clock. Not sit there and flap to porn all day. They will usually tell you that they are watching.

    There was an incident back in the 1990's at my old employer which caused a bit of a ruckus. What happened was a group of technicians was watching porn on one computer, creating a hostile work environment. One employee told a supervisor and nothing happened. The they told that supervisor's boss and nothing happened. Finally, that employee told the boss's boss's boss and something finally happened. An investigation ensued and twelve people were sacked, and several others were suspended. After that, the entire company got a mandatory course in how to avoid sexual harassment in the workplace.

    Seriously, how stupid can people be? Apparently very stupid.

  25. Sequin

    I once got access to the proxy at a tourist place I worked and the boss looked at the logs and discovered that a couple of users had been accessing a site called "Rubbermaid" - very kinky! A warning email was sent out which caused much hilarity when it was pointed out that http://www.rubbermaid.com/ is totally SFW and they are suppliers of cleaning equipment, bins, mats etc.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah I ran those queries too, found some, umm, 'interesting' habits among the more mundane porn, couple of gambling addictions, some dodgy site with ladies and gentlemen of negotiable affection and a weird highlighter fetish which, to this day, umm, let's just say I try not to touch writing implements on anyone else's desk...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Highlighters

      I guess that well-known sub-brand of highlighter pens are called "Boss" for a reason...(!!!!)

      I suppose it explains their slightly unusual wedge shape, too...

  27. Morten Bjoernsvik

    proxy managing

    Back in last decade I set up a proxy service to ease the cost on our frame relay. but this proxy service came with extensive logging and grouping of service. Turned out more than 30% was web pages categorized as having "adult content".

  28. Steve C#

    This is why we have firewalls

    We have a WatchGuard firewall to protect our network and to protect users from doing stupid things that will get them into trouble. At one of my former employers a senoir vice president was let go for accessing porn websites.

  29. jimbo60

    unfortunate name similarities

    My kids' K-12 charter school system with a classical education focus uses a .org web site that has 'titans' (of Greek mythology) in the name, as that is the school system's mascot. Unfortunately, for quite some time the same web url but with .com instead of .org was a site celebrating large breasted women.

    The offending .com name appears to no longer be in use, but I wonder how many young kids (and parents) accidentally typed in the wrong name. I know I did several times, including at work, leaving me scratching my head wondering why the company's firewalls were blocking a school web site.

  30. tiggity Silver badge

    Dolls House & ex colleagues

    Used to be an unfortunate search term.

    Back in the day when looking for Dolls House bits & bobs for the sprog, many results were not for small dimension houses, furniture, dolls etc. but were brothels / smut sites

    Being UK based I had not realised likelihood of doll with the US double meaning

    Though fortunately this was on home PC

    On work related theme, a long time ago (late 90s), a bloke was sacked for their downloads - not sure if it was usenet new content grab or whether it was spider & download tool (he was a dev so quite possible he had written his own downloader) - My boss told us about culprits dismissal reasons and just said it was automated background download of pr0n content, so culprit was never viewing anything on his PC (so nobody would spot anything amiss if they walked past him). Culprit would then copy files to external storage (back when external device access to PC far less locked down than now). That caused company to actively inspect what sites / content were accessed by people (he was caught because amount of bandwidth and amount used outside of break time triggered investigation, that later led to discovery of the type of content) - amazing how lax things were back in the day.

  31. Grease Monkey

    Back in my days in the public sector I used to manage the corporate proxies. HR received reports of suspect surfing, not just porn obviously, but other proscribed categories and also excess use of none work related sites. From these reports HR would decide who needed further action, from verbal to written warnings to full on dismissal.

    After one suspect tried to claim that the sites she had been viewing were not what their URLs suggested it was decided that all such sites should be viewed by HR before action was taken, in order to weed out the false positives. HR came up with a protocol for these viewings, a member of HR would come up to IT where they would kick themselves in a meeting room with a member of the IT team to view a sample of the suspect sites. As three administrator of the proxies I was nominated IT person.

    As I said the suspect sites weren't always porn, but they often were. All the members of the HR team we female and I'm not. Furthermore one of the ladies from HR was married to a member of my team. As such I sometimes had to go and kick myself in a meeting room with the wife of Pune of my team and look view porn. This was the nineties so we're not talking 4K video, but porn nonetheless. Needless to say this did not go down well with my colleague.

  32. Martyn 1

    Back in the '90 I worked for a big computer co, so we had internet and USENET access, though the dodgy groups weren't available from the UK, but it didn't take much to figure out that if you proxied your USENET traffic via one of the German offices (where they were more enlightened ;-) ) then you could get everything. One of our devs did that and was amassing a lot of pr0n which he was then taking home on floppies!!!. Then one morning our manager took me to one side and said a complaint had been made by a staff member over something she "thought" she had seen on a screen, he told me he was going to instruct me to scan all the dept's workstations for pr0n the next morning and he didn't expect me (nudge nudge) to find anything unsuitable for the workplace; so after a friendly word in the dev's ear everything was wiped, I blocked access from our systems to the German proxies and told him in no uncertain terms that if he tried getting around it any other way I would find out and I would feed him to the boss, and everything blew over.

  33. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Windows

    Director Ozzle came out of the proxy too close to the NSFW system!

    "I wouldn't show your face back in London anytime soon," his colleague told him.

    Yep, acid and knife attacks are up. Wouldn't want to be on the list.

  34. Gordan
    Trollface

    South Park Season 20?

    Isn't this the core theme of the entire season 20 of South Park? Holding the entire world to ransom by threatening to publish everyone's browsing history?

    Troll Trace. :-)

  35. stick box

    Privacy invasion brings some laughs

    Years back in a very large engineering firm. The IT dept demonstrated it's snooping power by emailing the entire UK workforce, over 1000 staff with a list of the top 10 most hit websites of the previous day.

    6 of the 10 on the list were recruitment websites. To this day I have no idea who on earth thought this could be read as anything other than a clear message that it was time to jump ship. Oddly, another 2 sites in the top 10 were Barbie memorabilia.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great story, instantly reminded me of another classic tale (in Russian) https://oldmann.livejournal.com/63085.html

    TL;DR: In a big corporate network, connected to the world with 10 Mbits main and 2 Mbits backup, local BOFHs posted monthly a top 20 traffic users and top 20 URLs visited by said users. In a Russian Russia there were no GDPR in 1990s. All was well until someone highlightered up on a printout a 12 Gigs of traffic (a huge volume of data back then) from a certain site named analsexmoviesonline.com. The culprit was 60 years old distinguished gentleman. He resigned within three months "due to difficult circumstances".

    My own story, an educational organization, not much of a big network, 5 Mbits uplink, a rack of 24 Zyxels for remote users access, and a lots of traffic quotas overruns. Quotas were set department-wide and in case of overruns we usually sent a list of offenders (and a most visited sites, yes) to dept head and let them deal with offenders internally. This backfired wonderfully one day then we were asked for a "forbidden sites list" from freshly connected department.

  37. I3N
    Devil

    Did you know that was about pr0n ... cinched it with lack of certificate!!!

    So in the good 'ol days working with a lot of drones, my IP address got nicked ... FTP would sometimes show a printer ...

    I guess I was in the airport in Houston when an story came on about littlebrother software ....

    Back in office loaded it up and instantly could see who wasn't working ... I'd walk out into the hallway and shout "Knock it off [prefaced with I can see the web sites], I'm trying to find who has my IP address" ... that would work for about 20 minutes ...

    First IT job for funds outside my group, replaced some hard drives ... current support was too slow and sponsor was picky about putting all the screws back ...

    While transferring the files, some dodgy jpgs ... maybe ... remember it being a large file and loaded slowly only to be a big female ass ...

    Heard that IT sent note to that guys branch head about the activity ...

    Took that to my Branch and told him that it would be for his own good to pass it out ...

    Next meeting I completely lost it ... while being lynched by a bunch of drones ...

    So I'm in depositions and drone for IT was trying to bring that up as issue from 8 years prior ...

    They let this drone go off on leave during the physical round, so this was by phone ...

    Spoke to my lawyer on second line to ask drone if he has a forklift certificate and ... [see title]

  38. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Nederlands Sys Admin

    Last century I went to the Nederlands to become a Business Analyst, and instead they forced me to be the Sys Admin because my English wasn't good enough (Scottish accent). I was learning Dutch and they told me, "Don't learn Dutch, learn English". Rude as fuck is a national trait there.

    There systems were awful, set up by an irrational hobbyist with an unhealthy interest in porn. Wanking at his desk with his office door open unhealthy. About a quarter of our servers disk was smut, some of it highly illegal / instantly dismissible in the UK but I never knew what the laws were there.

    The incredibly expensive leased ISDN lines feeding the office were even more expensive because someone was logging in remotely and keeping them hot with porn (animal bestiality). The systems were so precarious that if I tried to refine them they'd collapse, and the users were all techies who were happy with the way things were. I put it out on the grapevine that usage was out of control and so was being investigated, and nothing changed. I then mentioned I was watching everything they were watching. I wasn't, but that put a stop to it. Even Dutch pervs happy to wank in an open door office don't want someone recording what they are doing over their shoulder.

    Usage surprised me, even back then it was equally men and women viewing porn, albeit some of the men had extreme 'tastes'. There was a couple of guys who didn't view any porn, but I assumed they just knew the systems better than me.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    male/female porn preference

    Sysadmins often claim that men and women seem to be equally interested in porn, but other people often claim otherwise. Certainly my direct anecdotal evidence says otherwise. Perhaps women who use networked computers in a mostly male environment are in this respect not a representative sample of women?

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