One good deed leads to a storm in an Exchange Server

Enthusiasm and youth are once again no match for age and cunning


Who, Me? With the use of personal email accounts seemingly never out of the political headlines, we present a cautionary tale of their career-shortening possibilities in another edition of Who, Me?

Our reader-supplied story concerns the reader’s colleague: a fellow Regomised as “Lucas”. Lucas and our reader worked for a mid-sized company in Belgium. It was large enough to have a few sysadmins, but not large enough for them to all be of a senior level. Lucas was a junior sysadmin: “always eager to help, but not experienced enough,” recalled our contributor.

“One day, email (Exchange) just stopped working.”

This was 15 years ago, before the days when everything was sent cloudwards. Exchange 2000 or 2003 was likely ruling the Belgian on-premises roost back then.

Naturally, one would suspect the junior as having had a hand in the failure, but Lucas had taken the day off. It therefore fell to the main system administrator to look into the problem.

Emails were being queued. Thousands and thousands of emails were bunging up Exchange’s orifices. It was, in fact, working after a fashion, but oh so slowly.

The senior sysadmin dug deeper and found, upon further investigation, the problem had been started by a single email, which had been flagged as suspicious.

Poor Lucas. Our reader explained: “Wanting to do more for the company and even be available on his day off, [Lucas] had set the spam/virus filter to send suspicious emails to his personal email address.”

He had created his very own mail storm. A suspicious email had arrived. The server had obediently forwarded it on to Lucas’s personal email address. This triggered another warning about a suspicious outgoing email. Which resulted in an email being sent to Lucas’s personal email address. Which triggered yet another warning.

And so it went on. And on.

The rules of the time were not smart enough to spot the loop the server was in, so the queue rapidly filled with electronic shrieks of alarm. Goodness knows what state Lucas’s inbox ended up in.

It took a short 30 minutes to clear the queue and Lucas was given a stern talking-to regarding the use of his personal email account.

“He was replaced about a year later.”

The question, dear reader, is who was really at fault here? Certainly, as certain UK government ministers have learned, personal email addresses do not really belong in the workplace, but is there an argument to be made that Lucas had actually helped highlight a flaw in the rules engine?

Rather than being replaced, should he have been thanked for his diligence and the stern talking-to given to whoever had devised the infinite loop scenario?

Or was he, in the great tradition of Who, Me? incidents, just a bit silly?

Use the comments below to spill your brains and send your own story of infinite loops and all too finite skills via email to Who, Me?

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