More stupider user tricks: IT horror stories

Take heed; lessons await

Trick No. 8: Cruel and unusual

Incident: I still have trouble believing that this happened only last year. Our consulting guys got called in to rebuild a server farm "from scratch," as the caller put it. That surprised us because we'd done some business with this client before and the client's on-site guy was decent. Calls to him for an explanation, however, went unanswered. So we show up on-site and find out why: They'd fired him. This didn't come as a complete surprise, as he did have some personality issues that might have made him unpopular. But as it turns out, according to office gossip, they didn't just fire him. The CEO -- whom we didn't like either -- actually did an Ari Gold number on him. Fired him during a staff meeting, embarrassed him in front of everyone, screamed at him, told him he wasn't getting his agreed-on severance for cause. I can't get into specifics, but let's say that the gossip showed that "cause" was highly arguable. Looked to us like he was getting blamed for a sales engineer screwing up at a client site.

So, obviously, the sysadmin is hurt and angry, but they just let this guy walk back to his office to spend the rest of the afternoon "packing." This is a guy who runs the company's entire IT operation, soup to nuts. Then they watch him walk out with a couple boxes of stuff. Turns out it really was personal stuff; he didn't steal a thing. But he'd apparently seen the fact of the dismissal coming even if he didn't foresee the manner, because he had prepared.

Five hours after he left -- two hours after everyone had left for the day -- every server in the server farm decided to rebuild itself, as did the CEO's, CFO's, and office manager's desktops. The sysadmin was nice enough not to take the backup tapes, however, so we could restore them to about a week before the incident, but it took almost three days. And this was a small development shop, so he not only took out e-mails and doc files, but all the recent code, too. We had to restore a lot of that from users' local drives.

We couldn't prove anything against this guy because all the scripts -- if there were any -- ate themselves during the operation. And honestly, if what scuttlebutt says happened is true, that CEO deserved it. His employees didn't, though.

Fallout: Loads and loads of painstaking work.

Moral: If you're going to torture and execute your IT guy, make sure he doesn't have unsupervised access to the system after that. Don't you people watch 24?

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Oliver Rist

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