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BOFH: Tech helps HR investigate the Boss's devices

We're going to need a corkboard, push pins, red yarn and emails dating back to 2003

Episode 11 The Boss is – not to put too fine a spin on it – crapping himself.

Apparently, there's a rumour about some legal action in the wind and that the substance of his email conversations is now being asked about.

At the moment it's just some questions from HR, but who knows how far this could go?

"… and so we will need to see the contents of his mailbox, including his sent, deleted and archived documents," the company's HR person tells me.   

I can tell it's serious as one of the company's lawyers is pacing around in the background.

"So you want me to recover his deleted emails?" I ask.


"How far back do you want me to go?"

"I want his complete email history. We need to check the veracity of the accusations that have been made."

"So … back to when he started here? Or do you want the email messages that he sent when he was applying for his job?"

"Why would those email messages be relevant?" the HR guy asks.

"I don't know. I don't know what it is you're looking for so I'm not sure whether it's his employment status you're investigating, his interaction with other members of staff, agreements he may have made outside his delegated authority, whatever. Like maybe he supplied a CV with fake credentials, I dunno. If you could give me some clues it might help?"

"That's … confidential."

"Okay, no problems. Now, do you want his personal email as well?"

"People shouldn't be using company email for personal business."

"Yeah sure, and they shouldn't be using the company photocopiers to check on the progress of suspicious moles on their arses either – but we all do it."


"Not our OWN photocopiers obviously. No, I use the one up in Human Resources."


"Anyway, back to the question, do you want his personal email?"

"Any email sent from a company email address is email that the company can look through. It belongs to the company," he replies, with just a tinge of overconfidence.

"Fair enough. What about his personal email?"

"I just said, any email sent from a company …"

"No, I mean email from his personal email address."

"Can you … I mean … do you have that?"

"No, but I know his password from the keyboard logger we had on his machine, so it'd only take a few moments."

"I think that a personal email address is private, I don't know that we really …"

"What about only reading email from his personal address that was sent on company time, using company computers and networks?"

I notice the company lawyer has now wandered off down the corridor where he couldn't possibly hear this conversation in sufficient detail to replay it in a courtroom …

"Well, when you put it that way, we WERE effectively paying him while he was sending those emails AND using company resources …"

"Now you're talkin'!" I shoot back. "What about phone calls? Company phones, company time?"

"I …"

"How about I send you the transcripts and you make up your mind for yourself?"

"You have transcripts of his phone calls?!?!?!?! And before … you mentioned keyboard loggers?"

"Yeah, well, I knew he was a wrong 'un from the start.  I like to keep tabs on people – you know … for the Company."

"I see. Well, I'm not sure we can technically USE any of that information but it might be helpful for background in researching the incident …" 

"What about voice recordings?"

"You have voice recordings?!?!!"

"Sure, just the occasional conversation – you know, office chatter, conversations at the pub over lunch, during and after work parties, in the lift, that sort of thing."

"You recorded that?!"

"Yeah well, you know – company time, more or less. I mean, he's a salaried worker and in his contract clearly states that he could be called into the office at any time if the company deemed it necessary, so really everything he does he's doing on company time."

"Well, actually, when you look at it that way …"

"What about pictures from his mobile phone? His company mobile phone …"


"His home webcam?"


"It's connected to an app on his mobile phone – the company mobile phone. Sometimes he sneaks off home in the middle of the day and just plays Halo when he'd said he was going to a vendor meeting."


"Indeed," I say. "So, in summary, you want me to completely invade his privacy because you think he might have taken a few liberties with his meal expenses and because he happened to call one of the accountants a 'pedantic piece of shoe-turd' in an email message?"

"If you knew what this was about, why did you ask all these questions??" the HR bloke seethes.

"Oh, I was just doing that for the voice recording," I reply. "Now let's talk about my future meal expenses …"

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