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'I'm telling you, I haven't got an iPad!' – Sent from my iPad

Careless autoreplies cripple email at the heart of local government

On Call The week is drawing to a close and the weekend awaits. Is there a better way to kick things off than with an episode of Register reader experiences in our regular On Call feature? Probably, yes...

Today's tale from the front line of IT support comes from a reader the Regomiser has decided to call "James" and is set just as Apple's iPad moved from Jobsian fever dream to profitable reality (and we were forced to come up with the Regism "fondleslab").

A decade ago, James was working in the IT team for UK local government. In keeping with the thrusting, staying up-to-date ethos of such organisations, there was a "no iPads/personal devices" rule strictly enforced. After all, who knows what horrors the newfangled things might be carrying in or, more importantly, out?

On the day in question, James arrived to find a high-priority helpdesk ticket shrieking for his attention. The disks of the email server were at capacity and the email gateway was on fire, digitally speaking. The ticket was from one of the elected representatives and shouted, in big angry capitals, "THERE'S A VIRUS AND MY INBOX IS FULL".

It is always such fun when users take it upon themselves to diagnose issues, and usually ascribe them to a mystery virus or some other example of miscreancy.


What evil lurks within the data centre, and why is it DDoS-ing the ever-loving pants off us?


James duly investigated: "What had actually happened was that said councillor had set up their work email on their personal iPad and set an autoreply on the iPad saying 'thankyou for your email'."

As the day drew to a close, the worthy representative had then emailed someone who had done the same thing.

"Result: autoreply storm overnight," sighed James.

Using an iPad was strictly verboten, according to council rules, and when James put the scenario to the councillor, he received the angry retort: "I haven't got an iPad!"

Oh dear. Lies from a local politico? It seemed so. James, you see, could clearly see the device identifier in Exchange ActiveSync. He also had another trump card to play:

"Definitely lies, because every email was suffixed with 'Sent from my iPad'."

Oops. It all went a bit quiet after that. The autoreply mysteriously disappeared, along with the iPad that the councillor definitely wasn't using.

And James, like all good BOFHs, "went back to sleep".

Catching a user out in a lie is one of the few joys left to those responsible for dealing with shouty helpdesk tickets. Ever found someone had been telling porkies, all in CAPITAL LETTERS? Share your experience with an email to On Call. ®

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