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Justice served: There is no escape from the long server log of the law

A handover or handcuffs? Take your pick, eh?

Who, Me? Bid farewell to the weekend and a cheery hello to work with a tale of a near-cuffing in our regular Who, Me? column.

Today's story, from a reader The Register's pseudoriser has called "Frank", is set back in the days of Windows 2000, Pentium processors and CD-ROM drives.

"I used to work at an electronics factory in Canada," recalled Frank, who was the company's first "proper" IT manager. His predecessor, while a lovely chap (as far the company was concerned), had "minimal skills" and, worse, a habit of trying to cover up his mistakes. According to Frank, he "took many shortcuts".

The "server room", such as it was, was actually a converted closet and featured wide shelves to hold the Pentium-powered beasts. Frank had just enough room to sit in front of a KVM keyboard and monitor to manage things, while also keeping the door open a crack in case he was needed.

"One of the computers was used for the company website," he said. "The website content ran off a CD-ROM drive. If there was an update to the site, I'd burn a new CD and then replace it in the web server."

The theory was, back in the day, that if anyone managed to breach the site, they would not be able to change the content. It all worked fine, but "was tight on HD space", Frank told us. Part of his daily routine was ensuring the log files were cleared down.

Things ticked over nicely for about a year or so and the systems remained healthy and stable. However, as is so often the case, "sales took a nose dive", resulting in a short-term cash-flow crunch and, based on the last-in-first-out rule, Frank was among those let go.

Since things had all been working well, the powers that be had wondered why Frank was even needed. All he seemed to do was sit in the server "room" or his office.

And so his predecessor was wheeled back in to take on Frank's duties once again.

Many of us have experienced similar: Frank dutifully made arrangements to hand over his office keys, have his accounts disabled and his VPN access revoked. An email confirming this was all done was BCC'ed to Frank's personal address, he picked up his last pay cheque, shook a few hands and left. "No hard feelings."

Two weeks later, while he was still looking for work, someone came a-calling for Frank.

He opened his door to find "two uniformed Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers".

"They said I'd been accused of 'hacking the office systems' causing the crash of 'several important servers' by company management. This included the web server, which had packed up a few days before."

Frank later learned that those pesky server logs had filled up the limited disk storage, leading to the borkage.

The company's management had opted to bring in an external consultant to deal with the problem. While the consultant had found no evidence of nefarious activities, "during the fault-finding, the CD ROM had been removed as being 'suspect' (as I had created it) and not replaced".

Thus, when the web server came back up, there was no content to be served. "Total website downtime was over three weeks," recalled Frank. The email server also fell over. "I never found the cause of that," he remarked, darkly, "but I have my suspicions."

That BCC'ed email came in handy as evidence that Frank wasn't involved and had indeed handed everything over, and his brush with the law was summarily terminated.

The company eventually attempted to hire Frank back on a part-time basis, but after his surprise visit from the cops he was strangely reluctant to have anything to do with them.

We like to think that he told them where they could stick their job, but ever the professional, he simply accepted another position from another outfit the following week "with a 30 per cent raise and a much larger budget".

Ever done all the right things but still found yourself in the wrong place? Or been saved from a night in the cells by an almost-forgotten email?

You have? Then you should tell Who, Me? all about it. ®


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