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Thanks for fixing the computer lab. Now tell us why we shouldn’t expel you?

Guessing the admin password is cool. Using it, even for good, is dangerous

On Call It’s always twelve o’clock somewhere, the saying goes, but Friday comes around but once a week and only this day does The Register offer a fresh instalment of On Call, our reader-contributed tales of tech support torture and turmoil.

This week’s contribution comes from a reader we’ll Regomize as “Hank Senior” because it concerns his son, “Hank Junior”, who he described as “an evil black hat hacker that tried to destroy his college network.”

Junior is and was no such thing. As we start this tale, he was just a kid who, one weekend, wandered into his university’s computer lab to do a spot of work but couldn’t because a domain controller had died, and nobody could log in.

“Being a helpful kind of guy he is, and a CompSci student, he jumped into troubleshooting mode,” Hank Senior told On Call.

Junior quickly found he had no network access, so tried guessing passwords to gain admin privileges.

His second guess, with the combo admin/university_name, did the job.

Let’s hope this Uni’s admins weren’t teaching CompSci in addition to running the lab!

Once Junior had admin privileges, he put his excellent education to work and logged himself and other sadly stricken students into the system. Assignments were written, work was done, and everyone was happy not to have wasted a weekend trip to the lab.

Hank Junior did worry his actions might be interpreted the wrong way, but also rationalised that such an obvious password meant it was surely intended for wide use.

But later that evening, Junior worried that his acts of spontaneous self-service sysadminnery might be taken the wrong way.

So he reported himself to the university’s administration.

“They went ballistic, and he was threatened with expulsion,” Hank Senior told On Call.

“Finally, a week or two later, he was hauled in front of some bigwig and told that he would only receive an official reprimand, and that this was his one and only pass.”

“As his father, and a professional programmer myself, I told him that I was proud of him and that this story could be used to garner points in the industry,” Hank Senior told On-Call.

We think that’s a fine analysis – what higher form of kudos is there than being the hero of an On-Call column?

If you fancy scoring that kudos for yourself, share your tales of being asked to address the absurd and emerging with accolades by clicking here to send an email to On Call. ®

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