Episode 14 "Where've you been?" the Boss asks.
"Holiday. I … booked it several months ago."
"And where's Stephen?"
"No idea – is he not here?"
"He called in sick yesterday."
"Oh, then I'm guessing he's sick."
"Well, I don't have time to sort that out, we have a situation!"
"The encryption bug thing. Our files are infected."
"Infected or encrypted?" I ask.
"I don't bloody know, it just says we have to pay a ransom to get our files back. Everything's locked out."
"Really?" I say. "But we shouldn't need to pay as we've got offline backups on the recovery laptop for exactly that reason."
"They're encrypted too. Or infected. I don't know," the Boss chips back, wanting to move on.
"No, no, they won't be infected or encrypted, they're offline. We only bring the laptop online to take a backup."
"Well, we … uhhhmmm"
"You can't have brought the recovery laptop online. It's never left plugged in – just to be sure."
"Yes, well, uh … We … uh … had an expert in."
"An expert at plugging cables in?"
"No, a security expert. He … um … said we should recover the data."
"What?! How? The recovery laptop's password protected and it's not on the domain!"
"Yes, well, we found the passwords in the Emergency Procedures book. But the book didn't mention how critical it was to keep the machine off the network after an attack."
"It doesn't mention how critical it is not to coat the laptop in Marmite and shove it up your arse, but we think people will use their common sense!"
"Yes, but …"
"IT … DOESN'T … MATTER …" I say slowly. "I keep a copy of the latest backup on my desktop machine."
"Yes, about that …"
"You … touched … my machine?"
"Well, technically it's the Company's machine. And it was an emergency."
"Was this before or after you tried the laptop?"
"After the laptop. And after Stephen's machine. Jim needed to reset the BIOS or something and he had to boot the machines from a USB stick to bypass the login or something. Anyway, long story short, it turns out that he thinks the USB stick may have had the virus or whatever it was on it, because, well …"
"So let me just clear up one thing. Did this Company-wide encryption/infection happen BEFORE or AFTER this expert came to the building?"
"Oh, it was probably before."
"Probably. So he was ON the premises when the infection or whatever it was started happening."
"Well, I don't know if we can be SURE about that. I mean, it was a very difficult time for everyone – what with the infection and everything. It might have happened afterwards, or it might have been happening all along. I mean, who can be sure?"
- BOFH: You say goodbye and I say halon
- BOFH: But soft! What light through yonder filing cabinet breaks?
- BOFH: Where there is darkness, let there be a light
- BOFH: Here in my car I feel safest of all. I can listen to you ... It keeps me stable for days
"So why was this … expert … here in the first place?"
"He was visiting one of his friends in the accounting department when everything went awry and he was able to put his skills to good use."
"He's got a Masters degree in computer usability and a Doctorate in divinity."
"Ah, two degrees that are worth less than their weight in bog paper. Ironic, though, that his limited knowledge in one subject might very well gain him some first-hand experience in another?"
"I'm not sure I follow."
"So timeline this for me. He turns up, some systems get affected and you lead him on a slow march through the building, letting him ravage anything he can plug his USB stick into?"
"He's got a Doctorate!"
"SO'S MY BLOODY DOCTOR, BUT I DON'T LET HIM USE MY BLOODY COMPUTER!"
"I blame myself," the Boss says.
"So do I," I respond.
"Look, I know mistakes have been made, but the main priority at the moment is to just get everything back up and running. Jim's got us some new computers and he's installing them as we speak, so at least we can have some people up and running as soon as we can recover the data."
"So he's got a standalone network up, completely isolated from our network?"
"Of course! Well, he will … once the machines have been assigned to users and have finished updating."
"Is he updating them with his USB stick?"
"I … No, they're just updating from the network."
"An infected network?"
"So … he's quite probably added to our recovery workload because we'll need to zero those machines as well?"
"Zero what machines?" the PFY says, entering Mission Control looking decidedly seedy.
"Everything. We need to zero everything," I say.
I fill the PFY in on everything that has transpired in the past 24 hours, including how Jim's rampage through our hardware has effectively screwed the entire Company over – including our machines. A worryingly prominent vein appears on the PFY's reddening forehead as I recount how the contents of his machine, including his tirelessly pirated MAME archive and savegames, as well as his personal data, are now gone.
"I have a set of backups," the PFY says, after only a couple of minutes of eerie silence. "Two weeks old. At home. I'll go and get them now."
As the PFY walks off calmly to the tube station, the Boss asks if it's alright if Jim pops in later to apologise. I nod and tell him that it's probably a good idea, before tapping out a quick message to the PFY:
BRING THE MARMITE! ®