How to keep your enterprise up to date by deploying the very latest malware

Salesmen suffer after suspicious surfing

Who, Me? Start your week with a trip back to the early days of the World Wide Web with a tale of imaging peril and malware malarky from the files of Who, Me?

Today's story comes from a reader whom we shall call "George", for that is not his name, and an experience at what he delicately called "a very large retail store" during the closing years of the last century.

Back then, deployments in George's organisation were based on machine images in order to keep a consistent Standard Operating Environment (SOE) over the fleet. A machine would be set up with the required configuration, which would then be imaged and reused.

Simple stuff. Until the events of today's story.

It was a Friday afternoon. "I had completed the build on the latest SOE on a spare workstation," George told us. The plan was to take that pristine build and deploy it over the 30 new workstations that were due for delivery next week. Job done, he headed home, doubtless looking forward to cloning his work over the sparkly new hardware.

However, he had reckoned without the antics of the 24x7 operations team, who had taken a shine to this particular workstation. "They'd do their personal stuff here," George said, "banking, online shopping, searching for rental accommodation and on this occasion…" something somewhat salacious.

Blissfully unaware of what his freshly built computer had seen over the weekend, George arrived on Monday, raring to go.

"I clone this workstation into the new image," he told us, "and proceed to deploy that pristine SOE into 30 brand-new workstations for the Advertising department."

By Tuesday morning he was ready to refresh the dated hardware currently in use with the shiny new gear. Everything went swimmingly – the users were delighted with their new workstations and, having deployed 30 new machines in a day, George was the hero of the hour and the apple of his boss's eye.

Up until noon on Wednesday.

"A weekly scheduled scan starts across every workstation looking for viruses and unwanted nasties…"

No, we don't know why some IT departments insist on crippling computers during working hours either, but it's good to know that some things never change.

George's console lit up like a Christmas tree as the scanner found all manner of horrors on all of the new workstations.

"My boss gets these alerts at the same time as I do," he said, "they are still dinging on my console and I'm sitting there dumbfounded as my boss looms into my space."

"I really like a manager who can take the time to understand an issue, help identify the cause and work towards a resolution before they go looking for the person who needs to have the conversation that starts with 'I'm going to rip you a new one'," George observed.

As do we, George, as do we.

Thirty workstations in a day was nothing compared to the speed at which he and some colleagues managed to switch the new (and festooned with malware) shiny with the old and busted. It took less than an hour for the befuddled users to be back in business with last week's hardware.

"The users never knew the real reason why we did this odd workstation shuffle," said George. "They got the new machines back again a few days later."

As for how it happened, it transpired that operations team had been omitted from the internet content policies of the organisation, something that was swiftly rectified.

Along with a few extra checks and processes around image deployment…

Ever done the IT equivalent of trampling mud (or worse) over a favourite grandparent's new carpet? Or fired up an exciting new bit of kit only to find something awful has happened to it? Share your story with an email to Who, Me? ®

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