back to article If you're going to exploit work's infrastructure to torrent, you better damn well know how to hide it

Welcome to Who, Me?, your Monday morning palate-cleansing confessional after a weekend of not worrying about the antics of users. Pop on the kettle, grab a digestive and… maybe check your bandwidth? Today's story comes from "Bob", a freshly minted IT professional, enjoying his first role in the industry back in the early 2000s …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    The sly devil

    Ok, points for having weaved through all the issues, but points docked for having thought that the server bandwidth was free and not checking to ensure that it was.

    It is fascinating to see how the dominoes fall in real life, and that obstacle course was rather hair-raising at times.

    A very interesting tale.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The sly devil

      And points also docked for forgetting to unwind it all at the month end.

      1. cream wobbly

        Re: The sly devil

        Yeah, not least because that was easy to put up front - book a "dental appointment" or something and stick it on the works calendar. Cancel it at the last minute if you have to.

  2. TonyJ Silver badge

    i don't know...

    ...whether to be massively impressed or massively horrified!

    On the one hand - well done for working through the situation and getting yourself out of the hole you got yourself into

    On the other hand - what the actual fuck were you thinking abusing a corporate network like that?

    So 50/50, equally, I reckon, seems about fitting.

    1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change
      Devil

      Re: i don't know...

      Oh, definitely more to the blame side.

      Many in this column make an honest mistake, then 'fess up and all is well. 'Rob' didn't: he abused the system, and his every subsequent action was to cover his own unapologetic arse. He put his coverup ahead of backing out of the problem he'd caused and restoring normality at the first opportunity.

      But on the upside, one to make this column live up to its name and mission!

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: i don't know...

        "He put his coverup ahead of backing out of the problem he'd caused and restoring normality at the first opportunity."

        Sure, but why wouldn't you?

        Option 1: Confess. Get fired.

        Option 2: Try to cover up, fail, get fired.

        Option 3: Try to cover up, succeed, keep job.

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: i don't know...

          Agreed. I've had bosses who've kept me on after a massive fuck-up which was an honest mistake, I doubt they'd have been so forgiving if I'd been dicking around on company time/bandwidth like this.

          (If they'd caught me of course...)

        2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: i don't know...

          I think I'd go for option 0: Realise it's a really bad idea from the start and not do it.

          1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
            Big Brother

            Re: i don't know...

            > Realise it's a really bad idea from the start and not do it.

            Please do not suggest such unreasonably reasonable things! Thanks for your cooperation.

          2. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: i don't know...

            In defense of him, way back when, much was not entirely cut and dried as it is today. Think "wild west" with things to try that back then were just part of the job. But, yes, he should have innocently asked at some point about the connection being monitored under the guise of "learning the system".

          3. Black Betty

            Re: i don't know...

            Clearly you are not familiar with that great, nay stupendous philosopher, Calvin.

        3. Keith Oborn

          Re: i don't know...

          Colleague at $UK_Cable_Co (not hard to guess!). One night he got a new patch for the CMTS (cable headend routers) from Cisco. For some reason his standard "It's Cisco: be VERY careful" alarm didn't ring.

          So he deployed it nationwide. Some hours later a nice new little bug emerged and caused ALL of the routers to reboot at once. 4.5m customers knocked offline. After the reboot the DHCPs (also Cisco software, but rather good) were being hammered. Another colleague said "it was impressive. 200-odd boxes all pegged to 100% CPU for 30 minutes, but they all kept working and I didn't have to do a thing".

          The culprit put his hand up and said "oops, sorry", and found that the company mantra "everyone is allowed one mistake" was actually true. Of course, if he'd tried to hide it. the result would have been different.

        4. Just Enough

          Options

          You omitted the one Option taken.

          Option 4: Try to cover up, only to mess up further, cover that up, succeed, keep job, brag about it some years later.

          It's one thing to repair and cover up an honest mistake. But this joker brought it all about by dishonest, and staggeringly stupid, appropriation of company resources for his own selfish ends.

          He deserved to be fired.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: Options

            He deserved to be fired.

            But he upheld the eleventh commandment (though shall not get caught), so he got away with it. He was luckier than he deserved, but I am sure in the end things will balance out.

          2. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Options

            Also greedy.

            Using/nicking a bit of spare bandwidth is one thing.

            Using as much as you can is going way too far.

            1. Kiwi Silver badge
              Pirate

              Re: Options

              Also greedy.

              Using/nicking a bit of spare bandwidth is one thing.

              Using as much as you can is going way too far.

              My reading of it is that his seeding was a lot heavier than he'd anticipated.

              Not judging his actions/motives as I don't know the full story but it'd almost certainly make me a hypocrite. I don't think I ever torrented from work but I did use the system for my own stuff.. Duly reported to the head of IT of course (which was very much an internal conversation :). When a NZ cellco had a buggy billing system I made sure I got my money's worth in free data [snip other stuff that could cause me some headaches... ;) ]

          3. BuckeyeB

            Re: Options

            The BOFH would cover it up by connecting the 3-phase to any door knob used by whoever came to complain about it.

      2. steviebuk Silver badge

        Re: i don't know...

        I see where you're coming from however, with all these CEOs doing the naughty (currently reading about Nathan Elvery taking £47,500 at West Sussex County Council dressed up as "Relocation expenses" and then never actually relocating) and being given golden handshakes after to just "go away", I'm fine with what this engineer did. I wouldn't do it, but fine with someone doing such a thing and getting away with it.

        If you think you can get away with it, why admit it? So many of these Directors and CEOs do worse, get pay offs to go away and then somehow get new high paying jobs elsewhere. Like all the ones at Thomas Cook. Suggestions are a lot of them were taking massive pay increases knowing things were going to shit. No doubt they'll be at the top level at another company soon. So at the IT level this person was, why admit it, get fired and then find you can't get an IT job again.

        If someone died from it, might be a different story.

        The Register needs to understand, which we know they know, that torrenting itself is fine, it has legitimate uses. Its what you torrent that can be questionable.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: i don't know...

          Isn't that whatabuttism?

        2. kev4d

          Re: i don't know...

          If CEOs are the standard by which you judge ethics, then allow me to provide some information that you apparently do not have.

          eth·ics

          noun

          plural noun: ethics; noun: ethics

          1. moral principles that govern a person's behavior or the conducting of an activity.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: i don't know...

            You mean it's not a county in SE England?

            1. Aussie Doc
              Trollface

              Re: i don't know...

              Don't be thilly.

          2. Olivier2553 Silver badge

            Re: i don't know...

            moral principles

            Some people have lousy moral principles!

            It's like ISO 9000 and quality, you produce shit and you know it.

          3. BuckeyeB

            Re: i don't know...

            Good ethics: Doing the right thing even when you know no one is watching.

      3. iowe_iowe

        Re: i don't know...

        with creative thinking like this, and a well-developed sense of self-preservation, I'd say our hero is probably very high up the corporate ladder by now...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    20 years ago? When completed SETI@home work units got you bragging rights in some nerdy communities? That 20 years ago? When users got nice shiny new PCs with CPUs that they were never going to take full advantage of? That 20 years ago? When users with nice shiny new PCs still complained that the computer was slow? Was that when you meant by 20 years ago?

    I've no idea what you might be asking about. Really I haven't.

    1. defiler Silver badge

      Especially when The Register had their own league table. I remember chasing down Richer Sounds for their spot in the table...

      I probably spent a fair bit on work's electricity bill.

      1. Kevin Johnston

        Ah yes....those wonderful days of using spare computing cycles. I managed to get into the top three on one of the Vulture leagues for quite a while but then job, lifestyle and system changes tailed it all off. Not sure I could even find my login details these days to see if I am still in the top 100

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sounds awfully familiar...

      Except I got to use it as the official "burn-in test" software on servers. Still remember the excitement of installing it on four DL560G1s (or maybe G2s) with the beefiest CPUs available and watching them romp through the work units at a pace that put everything else I had at my disposal to shame. Things got even better when the deployment of the servers, which would have been the end of my burn-in test, was delayed by a good few weeks due to issues with the code they were meant to run.

      1. Killfalcon Silver badge

        Re: Sounds awfully familiar...

        This is a good solution to a real problem: setting up load tests is a pain, in my experience.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sounds awfully familiar...

          I used to use some old fractal software (Xoas?) for soak testing PC's - used to peg the CPU at 100% and can set it to on autopilot and just left it zooming in and out. On modern CPU' barely ticks over. Newer software has to be installed just does one frame and that's it.

          Still doing the SETI - Bionc thing, but only the ones with cool graphic screensavers. Anyone know if there is a portable version of BIONC and or fractal?

          1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            Re: Sounds awfully familiar...

            i always wonderd what soak testing meant when i was a kid .

            it sounded so ... technical

    3. Keith Oborn

      SETI

      Around 2002 my company had sold a load of software to are certain European Telco with headquarters in Den Haag. Said telco proceeded to order about 100 Sun E450s, fully loaded, for the project. Then their big pile of time-serving contractors did all they could to stall the project. We had two guys on site for six months twiddling their thumbs for $2k per day each.

      One day we got an email from one of them. "We got bored, uncrated all the Suns, hooked them up to a switch and connected them to the world. We're in the top 1% of SETI@home".

    4. DiViDeD Silver badge

      20 years ago?

      Or look a little further back. Like when the DoH was getting spanky new desktops with 16 Mb RAM in 4x4Mb SIMMs.

      Obviously the users could easily get away with 8 (and I think we were being overly generous there), and obviously too, there was a lot of beer money to be made at around a hundred quid a pop to all those enthusiastic computer club members with their 2Mb PC clones.

      Of course, being professionals, we would never have considered such an underhand operation.

      1. Kiwi Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: 20 years ago?

        Obviously the users could easily get away with 8 (and I think we were being overly generous there), and obviously too, there was a lot of beer money to be made at around a hundred quid a pop to all those enthusiastic computer club members with their 2Mb PC clones.

        I remember paying $50/MB for some brand new SIMMS from someone I trusted. I was quite chuffed as 2nd-hand modules were going for more than that.

        I think you've just given me an inkling where they came from, and why (beer money). I can't recall if I ever knew where he worked. Dang kit was expensive (my first 16G USB thumbdrive would've been worth ~$3billion if I paid the same price/MB as my first 2nd-hand HDD!)

        [El Reg - still lacking in the icon dept!]

  4. LDS Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "he didn't dare put anything into a company calendar"

    OK, but at least a note on the one in his kitchen?

    He doesn't look a chap I would like to work with...

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: "he didn't dare put anything into a company calendar"

      Hopefully, he learned from your mistakes.

      Might be a good chap to work with - now.

      1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

        Re: "he didn't dare put anything into a company calendar"

        I hope we all learn from our mistakes.

        But don't you think 'Rob' would perhaps have learned more from it if he'd got caught and paid a high price? It's life's big blows that can be really character-building.

        1. Kiwi Silver badge

          Re: "he didn't dare put anything into a company calendar"

          But don't you think 'Rob' would perhaps have learned more from it if he'd got caught and paid a high price? It's life's big blows that can be really character-building.

          A "near miss" that you survive can teach you a hell of a lot more about something that you don't (speaking as someone who was invited to be a victim in a nasty high-speed head-on but missed the invite by a couple of inches!).

          Not justifying his actions, but he may've learned his lesson and gone on to do a lot better in the long run. I certainly think he learned a hell of a lot about networking and his work environment in the early hours of one Sunday morning. And how to route-around some difficulties (even if it meant stealing someone else's bandwidth!).

          Most of us have 'youthful indiscretions' that could've landed us in hot water had we been caught, and certainly all of us have thought things even if a lack of opportunity was the only thing stopping us. How he behaves now is what I'd be interested in, especially if his near-miss back then taught him a lot and made him a better person.

      2. royprime

        Re: "he didn't dare put anything into a company calendar"

        Yup, I'm sure his cons will have certainly improved over the years.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: "he didn't dare put anything into a company calendar"

      All of that for "a popular BBC documentary " and getting creds too!

      1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: "he didn't dare put anything into a company calendar"

        > All of that for "a popular BBC documentary " and getting creds too!

        Since when has Doctor Who been a documentary?

        1. jonathan keith Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Re: "he didn't dare put anything into a company calendar"

          They *want* you to scoff at the idea of Doctor Who being a documentary. You know... *them*.

        2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: "he didn't dare put anything into a company calendar"

          Since 2005, not 2002.

    3. baud Bronze badge

      Re: "he didn't dare put anything into a company calendar"

      He could just have written something innocuous, but just indicative enough. Like something with "BBC documentary" in the subject, so that any examination wouldn't raise any eyebrow, but "Bob" would have understood.

      Also I don't understand why he didn't just shared his torrent while he was at work, so that to not impact his gaming sessions. And in his case, adding max upload speed would have been a good idea.

  5. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    here at work I gots a 4Mb ADSL link to abuse as I see fit (lab network) so the corporate fatpipe @50Mb doesn't see any abuse. Sure it's a rinkydink link, but what the hey, it works.

    However, when I have a need to get something down like pronto, I do it from the DMZ (which uses the same fatpipe as the co), but only after hours, and nobody is any wiser.

    1. osakajin

      "Pron to"?

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      I used to work for a shitty company (fuck you Evesham Micros) building PCs and servers. Obviously there was no network access for us, and at the time, access by phone was expensive and slow.

      However, we were right next to the guys who built the OS images, and somehow they'd persuaded the mangement that they needed their own ADSL line, "for testing builds with ADSL modems in them". As we had access to an entire warehouse full of PC parts, it was no problem for us to surreptitiously set up a small PC behind one of the benches, giving us a free, unmonitored internet connection, to while away the boring days.

      1. steviebuk Silver badge

        So that's why they went bust?

        :)

        I like the comment in brackets. Some companies or at least the management are arseholes and will always make you think that.

        1. phuzz Silver badge
          FAIL

          I think mostly they went bust because the home PC market was starting to become saturated, and the largest companies had more economies of scale on their side. But yes, also because the mangers were idiots and treated the staff so badly.

          Oh yeah, and because their stock keeping processes were so bad, about 10% of the warehouse stock walked out of the door most days. A box of twenty MP3 players would come in in the morning, and there's be less than ten left by the evening, with only one having been sold. Somehow no one there questioned this 'wastage', presumably they were on the take as well.

          Still, there will always be a place in my memory for them, when I remember going into their tiny lock-up in the late eighties to pick up a 512Kb RAM expansion for my Amiga.

          1. steviebuk Silver badge

            Appeared they relied too heavily on one government contract that labour then cancelled which forced them to call in the admins before going bust.

      2. Kiwi Silver badge
        Coat

        (fuck you Evesham Micros)

        Evesham? Wasn't that a contraction of "Ever Sham"?

      3. Lotaresco

        "I used to work for a shitty company (fuck you Evesham Micros)"

        I used to work not far from Evesham Micros. One of my colleagues bought a custom PC from them and it didn't work, mostly because the assembly had been done in a hurry and several connectors weren't properly seated. I offered to fix it for him but he took the view that Evesham built it so they could fix it.

        It's a long story so I'll cut to the important part. After months of trying to get them to fix it, he kidnapped one of the Evesham directors by inviting the director to his house to discuss the matter and then locking the door and refusing to let him go until he got a cash refund.

        1. Antonius_Prime
          Devil

          Pragmatism at it's best, BOfH style...

        2. phuzz Silver badge

          "because the assembly had been done in a hurry"

          Heh, it wasn't filled with stickers then? Or looked like someone had decided to use an entire box of cable ties ensuring zero movement on any cable? Or like they'd tried to use as few cable ties as possible, so all the cables were in a single bundle? Or with the inside of the case wall-papered with 'Intel Inside' stickers?

          It was a boring-ass job and we had to find a way to have fun without going insane. There's probably a worrying number of them out there with my blood stains in as well. It turned out building computers left me with as many cuts as working in a professional kitchen, although less burns.

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Mushroom

            There's probably a worrying number of them out there with my blood stains in as well. It turned out building computers left me with as many cuts as working in a professional kitchen, although less burns.

            I used to build stuff for a while and also had the blood etc go out. Watching some crime show one day I started to doubt the effectiveness of DNA, when I realised that my blood was in many places (including several countries) I'd never been. Imagine a wiped-down crime scene but a small but of your blood was on the computer case - not wiped down because the perp was no where near it.

            I did a few months in a professional kitchen as well, starting as a general hand on a temp-lark and suddenly being thrown in as veggie prep (ie cutting/peeling/dicing all the vegetables). I don't recall once cutting myself. But I often felt that a large box of band-aids should be a standard part of the bits that come with a new computer case (and perhaps several large-size bandages, those pads for covering large wounds etc, --> maybe even a large cauterizing blowtorch --> ).

            I'm not sure a PC is able to be powered up until a blood-sacrifice has been given. Perhaps that's why one of mine acts up so much at times...

    3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      corporate fatpipe @50Mb

      Wow, that's a very conservative definition of 'fat'. My home broadband is twice that.

      (I'm assuming here, you mean MBps, not Mbps, i.e. bits not bytes).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Hey - stop with the fat pipe shaming!

      2. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

        > My home broadband is twice that.

        Nowadays, yes. I remember when 44kbps modem was what you had (and ISDN borderline luxury) sitting at the end of a 1 Mbit pipe, all for myself. Web pages with several images would load in just 1 second, woah!

        Around that time someone suggested doing telephony over internet. Me: haha, not going to happen.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Don't get me wrong, my ability to get 100MBps is relatively recent, and is contingent on my being in a property in the middle of a largeish city that is plumbed into (co-ax) cable internet. Prior to that, I had to make do with spending the same amount, or more, on unreliable ADSL that gave anything between 2MBps and 12Mbps, apparently depending on whether it was wet out or not, because my property didn't have cable. If I lived somewhere rural, I'd be thankful to get that. I can still remember the days of dial-up, and nobody in the household being able to make a phone call while you're using it, and in the scale of things, it really wasn't that long ago.

          Still, for any serious business to describe 50MBps as "fat pipe" in this day and age is a bit rich. Yes, they may get better SLAs than consumer broadband, less contention, and possibly symmetric upload/download speeds, but I bet you that 99.99% of the time, the service actually provided is indistinguishable from consumer offerings, except for the price.

          I do note that the OP is in SA, so perhaps the average offerings there are worse than in the UK. I'd find it surprising though, our infrastructure in this country by-and-large is suffering from decades of under-investment.

          1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
            Mushroom

            > ...my ability to get 100MBp...

            Ahem, I found that mentioning having a good internet connection triggers down-votes around here. Not sure why that is. Hence I'd never ever, under no circumstances, admit having close to half a Gig... Oops!

            Inevitable down-vote fire ------------>

            1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

              Indeed, I wasn't going for the "my pipe's fatter than your pipe" (oo-er-missus) type of post, but it may have come off like that (ooh-she-didn't). My point was that supposedly good business connectivity shouldn't be worse than cheap consumer broadband.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Is "cheap consumer broadband" like the GBP 30 per month unlimited 1 Gbit (up & down) service we have to 90% of the houses / flats in this mid-sized UK city ?

                To save the downvotes, it is only available with Talk Talk.

              2. Kiwi Silver badge

                My point was that supposedly good business connectivity shouldn't be worse than cheap consumer broadband.

                Guessing you've never dealt with Vodafone (at least VF NZ) or "The cuntany formally known as Telecon" (ie 'Spark').

                In recent times around $100 would get you unlimited ADSL and decent if not unlimited VDSL (if avaialble) for a home connection, but over $200NZ would maybe net you 5gig of data for a business connection - if you were fool enough to stick with them (Tele$cum were charing over $250/name/year for domain name services when '1st Domains' were charging $21 for the first year and $24/year for each year after that - and more services than smellycon even knew existed at the time (I know coz I asked about something and was told it cannot be done such a thing doesn't exist, went to 1stD and "Yes we do that, costs you no extra". (sorry, this was 15 or so years ago, cannot recall the full details - which brings me to another really great thing about 1stD - in that time the basic layout of their page has not changed aside from necessary additions for improved functionality! None of this 'rebranding' bullshit just coz they haven't changed fonts or fucked up the layout this month, they know how to get repeat business and that's by making it as easy and quick as possible for us to deal with them!)

              3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

                "Indeed, I wasn't going for the "my pipe's fatter than your pipe"

                Well im proud to say I get 7mb , over copper , and its perfectly fine for my needs.

          2. Sheherazade

            Getting two 1Gig fiber drops at my home, for as little as 5 euros each, per month. Businesses usually get the same, starting at 10 euros. OK, if you want guaranteed bandwidth, BGP & stuff, it might cost ten times more (but still dirt cheap). Guess where I live?

            To the subject: I can reliably piggy back DMVPN to the corporate US just to watch streaming content that is not available in my country. I would not do it, however.

      3. jgard

        You are obviously unfamiliar with the South African telecommunications industry. Due to anti-competitive practices, connectivity is ridiculously expensive in SA, and 50Mb is a huge pipe. At my last job - a large multinational with very good buying power - we were paying Verizon several thousand euros a month for a 1 Mb MPLS between UK and SA. The moment you need connectivity between the outside world and SA, the price sky rockets.

      4. Ryan 7

        Someone's never had to provide remote support to a South African!

      5. Jou (Mxyzptlk)

        There is a difference: Ping from site to site with 10 MBit "fat": Below 5 ms. Constantly, if nothing clogs up the line. 50 MBit "fat" is often below 4 ms or even 3 ms, depending on their location.

  6. trevorde

    Bitcoin mining for fun and profit

    One company I worked for was *desperate* to get into cloud development. We were all dragged off our projects, sent on AWS+Azure cloud dev courses and set to work on building the 'next big thing'. Unfortunately, one of our contractors accidentally committed our AWS private keys to a publicly visible repository. Over the weekend, someone found them and ran up a bill of $150K USD mining bitcoins. A nice profit for someone, especially as the computing/electricity was free!

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Bitcoin mining for fun and profit

      Or maybe the contractor deliberately committed your AWS private keys to a public repository, to allow him to use them to mine bitcoin for his own profit without anyone being the wiser.

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Bitcoin mining for fun and profit

        That's BoFH levels of dasterdlyness!

    2. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

      Re: Bitcoin mining for fun and profit

      Could that become a story for this very column?

    3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Bitcoin mining for fun and profit

      I think it's a fairly common exploit to go searching in public repositories for cloud service keys. I've heard of it happening before - this may even be the same instance?

      The first mistake here, of course, is putting your business source code in a public repository. I'm pretty sure you can host stuff on, for example, github, and share it with those that need it, and nobody else, for no cost. Public repositories are fine for open-source stuff, but even then I'd still be working on a fork in a private repo until all my changes were ready to commit (sans AWS keys)

      1. Ryan 7

        Re: Bitcoin mining for fun and profit

        It's all fully-automated at this point — I've heard of breaches logged within 30 seconds of the dodgy commit.

        Google Cloud runs their own competing automated scans of GitHub and sent an alert when my colleague managed to do it last month.

  7. gotes

    Wow

    Ingenious solution but incredibly unprofessional.

    1. DiViDeD Silver badge

      Re: Wow

      Ingenious solution but incredibly unprofessional.

      and yet you say that as though it's a bad thing?

  8. chivo243 Silver badge
    Coat

    Sounds plausible

    But, highly unlikely... nice story though!

  9. Ikoth

    I spent the late 90’s in the infrastructure team of a large finance house. I made (in)appropriate use of their fairly impressive internet pipe to feed my Usenet binaries habit – I was on dial up at home. The bank’s security team were still on the learning curve of how to deal with these “newfangled PCs” – until then everything had been run on a mainframe and a couple of minis.

    As the security team skilled up, they started making changes to firewall policies and started blocking unapproved ports, which of course included Usenet’s 119. That was the end of my bandwidth pilfering, until a few weeks later when I received an email from my premium Usenet provider, announcing the availability of their service over port 80!

    Downloading resumed and all was well for another couple of months. Until the day the Security Manager stopped at my desk and said quietly – “Very bloody clever. Now knock it off…” and walked away. I was grateful for how he handled it, so immediately curtailed my leeching. I found out later that they’d started analysing the firewall logs and my activities stood out a mile.

    1. FIA

      Downloading resumed and all was well for another couple of months. Until the day the Security Manager stopped at my desk and said quietly – “Very bloody clever. Now knock it off…” and walked away. I was grateful for how he handled it,

      I've always found it a good thing to be friendly and honest with the security/network peeps. I always work on a 'if you don't tell me I /can't/ do it...' attitude with using the works network, although I never did anything like this.

      At a previous job many years ago I used to maintain an SSH connection to my home server for reading emails at work (it was never used as a SOCKS proxy... ever....) but was quite honest about it if asked. A few years passed and the network firewall got upgraded and required authentication. Because I'd never hid what I did the network manager actually disabled the requirement for me for a couple of weeks until I found a replacement solution. He said 'There's 4 people who do what you do, 2 of you are open about it, so I ignore your IP coming top of various tables every month; the other 2 think I don't know....'

      Treat people with mutual respect and don't be too cheeky and you can get away with a fair bit.

    2. DiViDeD Silver badge

      Re: (in)appropriate use of their fairly impressive internet pipe

      Back in the mists of time, I worked for a major American merchant bank (now long defunct), with a thriving culture in the Computing department (yes, I predate the term "IT") of downloading from binary usenet groups.

      This was curtailed when a beancounter, investigating larger than expected phone bills, unearthed the cabinet chock full of 28.8 modems, each with its own phone line and the operation was shut down.

      Luckily, he let slip that "phone bills are high enough already", what with the 24/7 data connection to New York costing north of £12,000 per month.

      The solution was obvious. By the next day the modems were gone, replaced by a single machine hooked up to the NY fatpipe. Ah, the good old days!

      NB: pleae note that we were a professional group and didn't use our usenet access just for downloading porn, Oh No. Although it was mostly porn, come to think of it.

    3. Kiwi Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Until the day the Security Manager stopped at my desk and said quietly – “Very bloody clever. Now knock it off…”

      HeadSec walks off thinking "That'll stop the smartarse graffiti in the toilets!"

      I knew someone who pulled that trick on a few people. No clue who was up to no good but did something very similar to that. Sometimes just a "we know what you're doing, stop it and it goes no further" can end all sorts of naughtiness in a company - sometimes even stuff that was completely un-detected (or fully known but not cared about - don't ask how I know! ;) )

      All based on the theory that we're all guilty.

      Oblique XKCD

      1. Kiwi Silver badge

        Sometimes just a "we know what you're doing, stop it and it goes no further" can end all sorts of naughtiness in a company...
        A perfect example of this happened overnight. An email from Firefox with the topic "Keep that weird thing you searched for private". Apparently I have an account signed up to their "account tips", must be a throwback to when I was trying out their "sync" some years back.

        Anyway.. How many people around the world would've been doing a search they felt was 'weird' or embarrassing at the moment they received that email? If it went out to more than a million people I'd say there's at least a handful 'caught in the act' at the time, and hundreds if not thousands more who'd done some 'weird' search in the last few hours, more so for the last few days etc.

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          How many people around the world would've been doing a search they felt was 'weird' or embarrassing at the moment they received that email?

          many , if not all people.

          Some of them gullible enough to fall for a pretend blackmail scam if they receive such an email.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ""So I left it sharing a popular BBC documentary thinking that's not going to get flagged up, it's free BBC content anyway...""

    Oh come on ! We all know it was not BBC stuff ! Nothing of this kind was ever broadcasted on the BBC !

    Seems like I worked with that very Bob ... He was known to plug his laptop on the company's internet, direct to the DC outer switch, so no firewall would ever see the traffic. Actually, he was the one would have designed the infra, so, for sure he knew how not to be cought.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Makes me feel amateurish

    All I ever did was, many years ago, use the company's incredibly fast 33.6 kb/s, later 56 kb/s connection to roam BBSes around the world, racking up a truly impressive long-distance bill. (I had 14.4, later 28.8 and then 33.6, at home; when I got 56, I just used my home connection and about that time got access to this new thing called 'the Internet' and went to far fewer BBSes.) Officially I was connecting to First Class BBSes as part of Official Company Business; as it was, there was this very large file (over 6 MB, imagine!) which had to be collected from a certain BBS in New York, a smaller one from Toronto, and another from Sydney, and the phone line was notorious for dropping out; management knew nothing about how certain modem settings could be used to restart a download from where it dropped, something I sorely missed when going to broadband. This meant that they didn't realise that I could get the massive (yeah, right!) files in one to three tries each and would spend the rest of the time cruising the BBS fora. Once the company got broadband (512 kb/s, later 1.5 Mb/s, and then a glorious, incredibly fast, 8 Mb/s) direct to the network and I could get the files from a FTP site in minutes total instead of over an hour each from the BBS, and I got broadband at home, my access using the company line fell to zero except for real company business. I was able to monopolise the dial-up connection because I had the evening shift, when relatively few employees were around, and had been specifically detailed to get the large files precisely because I was available when the dial-up line would have very little other use. Everybody knew that I'd be getting the big files, so no-one questioned the long connection sessions around the world.

    Now, of course, 6 MB files are puny. And the bandwidth used to do things like, oh cruise El Reg, is simply too small to be noticed.

    1. vogon00

      Re: Makes me feel amateurish

      I had a slightly less technical and I suspect considerably less legal solution to the problem. Being a seriously 'circuit-switched' guy back then and having both interest and a small role in the fledgling technology of 'The I.N. Layer', I got to see a small (ish) list of 0800 (1-800 for left-pondians) numbers on a trial system running in one of the national networks.

      Having an inquiring mind and having experience of PBXes and their configuration (Especially the occasionally difficult digit-map/dial-plan), I got to wondering...

      Sure enough, one of the toll-free numbers for a government department had a very basic ACD system behind it, The options finished up with 'Alternatively, if you know the extension number of the person you are calling, you may dial it now') or some such.

      Whoever forgot to prevent seizing an outgoing trunk with digit '9' when the call was in the ACD did me a big favour. I spent a good few hours surfing both domestic and foreign boards without caring about the speeds or costs - just dial up, start the download and go to the pub. Only connected at 2400 Baud? Who cares, time for another pint! :-)

      In those says, no-one was bothered about analytics or the calling line ID / originating number flying around in the NUP or ISUP. etc, so I felt fairly safe surfing from home :-)

      Even managed to automate the process a bit with TCL/Expect and some rather crafty AT commands and S-Register tweaks aimed at dealing with the group delays and echo cancellers encountered calling the foreign boards.

      Someone must have had a surprise, as it stopped working a couple of months later :-)

      Yeah, OK, this was a pretty common 'phreak', but still satisfying.

      As an aside, I also saved another employer some money...a certain hotel chain we were forced to use for the usual B.S. reasons had a nasty habit of blocking in-band DTMF/MF4 dialling so you couldn't use your company-issued calling card (OMG, that long ago?), leading to a bigger bill due to their ridiculous in-room-call charges*. Turned out that if you dialled the '9+access number' by simulating loop-disconnect/pulse dialling with the in-room phone's hook switch, the in-band MF4 wasn't blocked... yippee!

      I and my colleagues got quite proud of being quizzed at checkout time about the lack of chargeable calls...

      *Rather hypocritical, I know, but the term 'Thieving bastards' always springs to mind.

      I miss the completely circuit-switched PSTN with analogue signalling....sigh..

  12. Lazlo Woodbine

    Leaching WiFi

    I remember back in the day I worked for a large assembler of sporadically reliable PCs.

    The company also owned a Tier 1 ISP and webhosting company, with a hefty fibre link to JANET, so we had essentially unlimited bandwidth.

    One day the network guys noticed a lot of outbound traffic on an unknown IP address, so set out to investigate.

    Many hours later they returned having found the cause.

    Someone had decided to plug some WiFi kit straight into the network and a big antenna on the roof, and was giving free WiFi to the estate over the road.

    We never found out who did it...

  13. FuzzyWuzzys
    Facepalm

    Not exactly torrenting...

    We used to do cross-network backups to servers hosting tape drives overnight. We'd get bored on the overnight shift and we'd dig out some Doom and play the security guards in the training room. We only had one net segment and things were OK until after about 2 weeks we all got called in to investigate why the backup times were getting longer and some backups had failed to complete, restores couldn't be done and this had caused serious problems for the business. We quickly learned some net comms and set up our own temporary closed network for overnight sessions!

  14. swm Bronze badge

    Not IT Related But ...

    (From Bob Stevens, "If you read me, rock the tower)

    A new pilot landed gear up (not good for the airplane) but noticed that no one was around. He got on the radio and said, "Tower, this is cadet West. I've lost my engine about 20 miles south of the main base. Instructions please." Tower: "Don't panic West! Establish normal glide! Try to make any field! Keep cool! Crash crews ready, etc." A few minutes later: "Tower, this is cadet West. I couldn't make the main base but managed a belly landing at aux #2." Tower: "Outstanding job, West! Congrats!"

  15. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    just one question:

    whats a "DC"? (in this context)

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Data Center, I guess.

  16. balrog

    Oh the simplest solutions are easiest, remote desktop to an HR weenies machine and install torrent there. A couple of searches in how to up privileges on their machine helps too. Jobs A Goodun.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Good Old Days

    In my first job I was committed to working for three years in a research outpost of a multinational. Because it was a "temporary" assignment the company wouldn't relocate my family. Pre mobile phone days and to communicate with home I had to drive into a nearby town to find the only public phone box that would take calling cards. The same box doubled up as a late night urinal.

    One day I had to visit an equipment room at the far side of site and found that it was so far across site that it wasn't on the company PBX. It had a rare direct line to the outside world that didn't have the call barring used on the PBX. I could contact my family from somewhere with a better ambiance than a lavatory. I soon had the place nicely fitted out with a chair, heater and even my own Amstrad PPC640 with a mighty 300bps modem. I had comms again and considered it fair game because of the company policy of sending people to the edge of nowhere and not permitting personal calls.

    It took about six months before someone noticed the bill. The shed was padlocked and a witch hunt began for the culprit. Oddly, because I did a good job and had a reputation for hard work I was eliminated from the witch hunt before they started interviewing people. I doubt that I could have lied through my teeth about it. Fortunately they couldn't pin the blame on anyone because they didn't keep call records for that phone.

  18. jackr

    reminds me...

    Reminds me of when I wiped a law firms windows profiles on my birthday by misconfigured DFS. Had to go to the data center and recover all the data from backup, left at 3am.

  19. Andrew Norton

    Pick your dates better if you're going to make up a story

    So, this is the early 2000's, right, and bittorrent. Ok, I'm going to call 7 kinds of BS on this.

    So, in the early 00's, membership sites worked on IP, so random IP address suddenly showing up, unnusual bandwidth, nope, it'd have been investigated and locked for unusual behaviour, plus it's not like today with passcoded torrent announces.

    They didn't come out til 05/06ish, post DHT. BUT, at that point every site got a LOT more paranoid (following EliteTorrent's busting) so they'd have been even less likely to accept a random account that's been in such poor condition, suddenly pumping gigs out. flagged and locked out.

    And that makes it even more likely when he uses XPSP3 as an excuse, because that came out in 08.

    So it's a good story, but doesn't fit with the facts of how such activity-logging trackers work (and I've been covering them for 15+ years). Complete fake.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Kiwi Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Pick your dates better if you're going to make up a story

      So, this is the early 2000's, right, and bittorrent. Ok, I'm going to call 7 kinds of BS on this.

      Afraid I'm going to have to call a few bits of BS on your claims of BS..

      So, in the early 00's, membership sites worked on IP, so random IP address suddenly showing up, unnusual bandwidth, nope, it'd have been investigated and locked for unusual behaviour, plus it's not like today with passcoded torrent announces.

      Back then many users were still on DU, and even those on any form of household broadband still had dynamic IPs and IP changes were common. Few (especially those on 'Telecom" in NZ) could get long periods of uptime.

      There was a fair amount of competition in the market in many countries with LLU and Telcos were competing for customers. One of the big offerings was to be increasing data limits, and some were going to unlimited (Europe perhaps was even ahead of the curve there, including the UK). As such, many of us were ramping up our torrenting and seeding, especially those of us who did not fear the RIAA et all. Hardware prices were coming down, speeds were going up, and having a computer doing more stuff in the background was also more feasible. I have no problems at all seeing an account starting to seed heavily.

      BUT, at that point every site got a LOT more paranoid (following EliteTorrent's busting) so they'd have been even less likely to accept a random account that's been in such poor condition, suddenly pumping gigs out. flagged and locked out.

      No. Not every site, just some you maybe knew of and some who were widely publicised. There were a great many membership sites that were a lot more quiet (in visibility, not in membership ;) ) and also many were outside the reach of the US companies and their abuse of the law.

      And that makes it even more likely when he uses XPSP3 as an excuse, because that came out in 08.

      Can't argue with that (though maybe he meant SP2 or maybe, since it was more than a decade ago, his memory is out by a couple of years and what he thought was '05 was '08 - I certainly would not be able to state when W1, 2, 3, 311, NT1/2/3/4, XP, XPSP1/2/3, Fista, FSP1/2, W7, W7SP1, W8 (IIRC around 2013), W10 (2014/15?), any version of *nix and any MacOS with even a hint of accuracy. I would've thought XPSP3 was pre-Fista meaning well before '08 but I guess my memory of unimportant dates is inaccurate. (And no, I could not state without going through records which jobs I was at with any accuracy back then, it's all kind of a time-smeared blur today)

      So it's a good story, but doesn't fit with the facts of how such activity-logging trackers work (and I've been covering them for 15+ years).

      You didn't cover nearly enough of them then.

      At the start of torrenting I had dial up. I had a 2nd line and a computer to spare that stayed connected 24/7 and I throttled/paused the torrenting when we were browsing or doing other stuff (originally coax-based LAN then hub then 8-port 10/100 switch which I still have, can vaguely remember running software on 98 that let me throttle the data speeds other LAN users got). In '02 or 03 I was invited to a member-only torrent site and for a wee while was stymied by my lack up uploads till I made my music collection available. That was hammered as I had some rare but popular stuff, and I had my system online 24/7. Then late '03 I was able to move to a suburb that had ADSL available. I still did much of my seeding on DU as ADSL then was in much smaller numbers and you were charged heftily for going over your data limits.

      I'm not sure when I signed up with Actrix but at that stage they had a daily limit of 700Mb which was from I think midnight - 8pm, after 8pm you were wide open. If you hit your limit you were throttled back to DU speeds but of course after 8pm you were fine (or maybe 9pm, it was a long time ago). Other providers soon started going with throttling rather than charging big money for over-limit runs (and it was a massive phone bill that caused me to change ISP to Actrix in the first place, when I accidentally left the seedbox on the ADSL rather than DU).

      So while you're saying that he could not have been doing this, and while he did get a date wrong if he really did mean XPSP3 it's plenty plausible the writer has some confusion over when SP3 was released. After all, a quick DDG shows SP2 was in 2004. Then again, a Computerworld article copywrited 20071 says that there was a release of SP3 in 2007 at >300MB but when the Windows Update release was to happen later (in "1H '08") it would be much smaller - this ties in more with the original story. SP2 was 260+mb so it would also tie in with the story, if the writer got the SP2/SP3 confused.

      So if you take the reasonable assumption the person was writing from memory and got a date or a version confused, and if you realise that your own experience of torrent sites was more limited than you'd like to realise, his story remains plausible. I'm not saying it happened (though I know someone who did get in trouble for killing their work's data allowance in a single weekend with torrents).

      Given your history, I'm quite surprised at the mistakes you made in your post! :) Speaking of your history, thanks. I may not always agree with your politics but I appreciate you taking a stand.

      1 The article is at computerworld.com/article/2538363/update--microsoft-releases-windows-xp-sp3.html. I'd make it clicky but that triggers a recraptcha hell loop, which I cannot get through because I am even less willing to allow google's spyware on my system these days and thus cannot complete it.

      1. Andrew Norton

        Re: Pick your dates better if you're going to make up a story

        "No. Not every site, just some you maybe knew of and some who were widely publicised. There were a great many membership sites that were a lot more quiet (in visibility, not in membership ;) ) and also many were outside the reach of the US companies and their abuse of the law."

        Hi.

        To those that don't know me, and who didn't bother to google me, since 07 I've been the head of research for TorrentFreak, and have been doing torrent research since 2004 (one reason Orlowski and Richard Bennett [when he wrote here] used to take such a fun interest in my comments). If the torrent site existed for more than 2 weeks, I was aware of it, and exactly how they ran (it's kinda my job to), and how they'd deal with unusual burst activities in account usage (we've run plenty of articles in the past on that very topic)

        Also, here's another big hint - no tracker exists that runs software that hadn't been written yet. No 'supre secret tracker' is going to run the passcode system, years before the system had been written, and before clients would reliably support and pass said passcode along in the announce.

        And yes, I remember the fun of unlimited time-limited dialup. some friends in the UK used to have NTL which had a 2 hour limit. So they set up a router PC that would drop the call at 1 hour 59min 50sec, and redial.If they were lucky, their IRC session wouldn't time out. Me, I had telewest, and that didn't have any connection limits - I once accidentally left it dialed up when I went on a 2.5 week job in Vegas filming BattleBots - which was annoying as the fax machine was on the same line and I was supposed to fax my arrival details so I could do a hot swap of bags to do another event. Ended up being dialed up for 37 days in one call. Yes, I well remember the pain of 5k/sec

        Doesn't change any of the facts though. Unless you believe in time travel.

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Windows

          Re: Pick your dates better if you're going to make up a story

          If the torrent site existed for more than 2 weeks, I was aware of it, and exactly how they ran (it's kinda my job to), and how they'd deal with unusual burst activities in account usage (we've run plenty of articles in the past on that very topic)

          When you began to raise your head above the parapet and become involved in a lot of legal stuff, some people were, well, lets just say you were a bit to visible at times.

          No matter how hot you think you are/were, there were likely quite a few private trackers that you had absolutely no clue about.

          Doesn't change any of the facts though.

          You are correct. But as I mentioned, should the writer have been mistaken about SP2/SP3 or other bits of the timing (like normal people are when going back far enough) then it'd put things well within the realms of possibility. - unlike your claim to know of every tracker more than 2 weeks old. But thanks for the glimpse into your psyche :)

          There were many parties you weren't invited to.

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