When your genius technical solution is shaking a mouse • The Register | #microsoft | #hacking | #cybersecurity


On Call You know that plumber who charges hundreds to just to change a magic washer? The IT world can be the same, where seemingly magical skills are grounded in the most mundane of realities. Welcome to Contractor Time in On Call.

Today’s story, from a reader Regomised as “Dan”, takes us back to the end of the first decade of the 21st century. Dan was gainfully employed at a London-based MSP and frequently called upon to deal with the vagaries of Microsoft’s finest. As such, a frantic call from a well-known financial institution demanding immediate assistance was not the rarity it might have been.

What was unusual, however, was how cagey the customer was being about what was actually wrong on this occasion. Just that they needed help. And they needed it NOW.

“Our sales people at the time saw an opportunity to make some money and took it,” recalled Dan, “sending me in on a massive day rate, but blind, without a real clue what I was there to do.”

“When I arrived on site I was taken into a quiet room and told through hushed voices that the IT team had lost admin access to their own systems and needed someone to help them regain access …”

Oh dear. It transpired that during the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 the company had elected to save costs by slicing staffing. The cutbacks included the then-head of IT, his deputy and the whole of the service desk. Heck – we’ve no doubt the words “outsource” and “offshoring” were heard in the offices of the beancounters.

Loyalty still being a thing, the IT boss’s team had followed him out of the door and gone to work elsewhere, which left our well-known financial institution in a bit of a bind.

“The net result was a fairly junior team all being promoted to positions with lofty titles, but none of them having full administrative privileges to the entire network.”

Well, this was awkward. The newly titled staff did not want to confess to their bosses that they were out of their depth and inadvertently reveal hitherto hidden levels of incompetence. They had therefore found the funds to get someone on site to sort their access. Hence the call.

Dan was talked through the complexities of the network topology. He was given a long list of accounts for which credentials were needed. He was then marched to the server room before being wished good luck. The door was closed and Dan was left alone with racks and racks of headless hardware.

What to do? At least everything was running on physical kit, but that was pretty much all that could be said for it.

Dan walked to the first server and connected up a monitor, keyboard and mouse. Just to see what he was dealing with.

The mouse was jiggled and the monitor burst into life. A Windows Server 2003 desktop appeared: a logged in desktop … for the Active Directory box. With full admin rights.

It transpired that the departing IT staff had either left things in a state where their replacements could pick things up easily, or simply didn’t bother with such fripperies as time-outs, auto-logouts or password-protected screensavers. Dan could scarcely believe his luck.

“I was able to easily reset the master Admin account to Active Directory in under a minute,” he recalled, as well as remembering the look of undisguised relief on the faces of client as they beheld his genius. Sure, he could have simply said the server hadn’t been locked, but where was the fun in that?

“They still regard me as some form of super hacker to this day because I never told them how I really managed it so quickly,” he confided.

“I think my company charged a sweet £1,000 for my time!”

That’s around £1,500 ($1,980) in today’s money. Not bad for a few seconds’ work.

We know the lifestyle trappings of consultancy bosses don’t pay for themselves, but have you ever found yourself the hero of the hour even if the effort expended came to zero? Or is it all down to a special jiggle of the mouse? Tell us the simple solution to your call out for which your client still calls you a magician with an email to On Call. ®



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