BOFH: A security issue, you say? Activate code tangerine

When you utter those words, it empowers us to do anything

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 18 "Someone keeps submitting an unfit response," the Boss sniffles in response to a question I wish I'd never asked about his feedback survey.

"Really?" the PFY says. "How?"

"Mostly they paste that Lorem Ipsum stuff and then on the last question they attach a picture of crudely drawn male genitals."

"The … meat and two veg?" I ask.

"I …" the Boss starts, before petering out.

"Was it in answer to the question about their impression of senior management?"


"Their feelings about IT department?"


"The person who put the survey together?"



"Of course."

"So which of you did it?" the Boss asks.

"Uh … neither of us," I reply with a fair amount of certainty.

"So who was it?" the Boss snaps.

"No idea. You made us make the form anonymous to get honest responses."

"Yes, but you could look …"

"It's anonymous!" the PFY responds.

"Yes, but surely the form would have … debugging information?" he wheedles.

"Sure, but I'm conflicted. Wouldn't that be … an abuse of my administrative privileges?" the PFY asks.

This from a man who'd routinely shut down the network comms to the vending machine on the ground floor so that he could get a free biscuit from the machine owner for helping to "diagnose the fault."

"It just seems … wrong," he adds.

A man who – more than once – glued a tinfoil cutout of a pistol between the pages of the Boss's journal when he knew he had an upcoming flight.

"I'm not sure we should break that chain of privacy …" the PFY adds.

From the man for whom no mailbox is safe.

"Look, given the nature of these pictures, it could be … a … security issue," the Boss says, drawing the long bow.

"So it's a code tangerine then?" I ask.

"A code tangerine?" the Boss asks.

"A code tangerine," I nod. "Triggered by the words SECURITY ISSUE. We also respond to the words HEALTH AND SAFETY ISSUE, PUBLIC LIABILITY ISSUE, and CODE FIFTY-FIVE FIFTY-FIVE."


"Yeah, but that's an old code from when the head of security used to have a stutter. By the time he got that out you either knew he was serious or the incident was over."

"I mean, because they might …"

"NO NEED TO EXPLAIN YOURSELF! All I needed was the words SECURITY ISSUE. We can do anything we like if it's a security issue. We can isolate someone in a darkened lift between floors for several hours if there's a threat to human safety!"

"I … didn't say anything about there being a threat."

"It was implied," I counter. "After all, what if he sent these poorly sketched anatomy pictures to just anyone? Maybe they'd have a heart attack?! That's safety right there!"

"I hardly think …"

"What about if he or she sent them to a vegetarian!!?!" the PFY suggests.

"Or a vegan!" I add.

I have no idea where we're going with this, but I have to admit I'm getting a little swept up in the hyperbole.

"Look, I just want to get to the bottom of this. Perhaps it's some form of mistake."

"Yes, I see what you mean," the PFY says. "I was filling out your survey and – repeatedly – accidentally attached a hand-sketched image of genitalia which I just happened to have on my work machine. That sort of thing?"

"You did say 'KEEPS' submitting," I add. "So it's ongoing. Trying to make a point."

"What if they're some form of … terrorist?" the PFY suggests.

"Should we call the police?" I gasp.

"WHAT!? No, of course not! It's just someone having a bit of fun at my expense."

"So … it's NOT a security issue?" I say, feigning disappointment.


"And we … won't need to implement code tangerine?" the PFY sighs.

"I don't think that's really necessary."

"And you're OK with not finding out who keeps sending that to you?"

"I think it's not worth the potential issues it might cause. I think we should maybe close the feedback form down," the Boss grudges, grudgingly.

"No problems." >Clickety< "No sooner said than down!" the PFY says.

The Boss wanders off to bury his disappointment under several layers of biscuits from the vending machine on the ground floor and the PFY looks up from his screen.

"So I can remove the feedback survey QR code from the pub toilet wall then?"

"I think it would be best. Once again the Boss has raised an issue which isn't an issue."

"You know …" the PFY begins, "they say that repeatedly reporting false alarms can lead to workplace complacency. And complacency can lead to?"

"Workplace safety issues," I reply. "And you know that some might even say it's a security issue …"

"CODE TANGERINE!" the PFY says, hitting the lift stop button.

It looks like the Boss will be waiting several hours for those biscuits.

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