Bad password. Hands where I can see them NOW!

This will be the lamest anonymization ever, but the story won't make sense without the context. I know you guys like your stories funny, and I'll try, but this was deadly serious at the time.

It's a few months after a high profile zombie attack orchestrated by an evil bearded gnome. The government has ordered the creation of the new department of zombieland security, and its first job is to train in new zombie screeners at the flying carports, for obvious reasons. As with most big screwups, there's now a sudden need for a lot of IT support, and I get in on this along with three of my friends. Our job is to setup testing sites near the flying carports and facilitate the on-site processing and hiring of the zombie screeners. Those who pass the test are handed their new anti-zombie uniforms, sworn in, and then head off to work at the flying carport.

I've been in touch with my friends for the past couple of weeks while things get going, and the televisions are still ablaze with developments on the current whereabouts of the bearded gnome. Our makeshift locations (hotels, gynmasiums, whatever was available) are secret and there are armed guards everywhere. A concern was raised by one of the supervisors at one of the biggest carports where a friend if mine was stationed, La Gnomia in Yu Nork. It's also the de facto 'command center' for the project. They're concerned that a zombie might try to steal the test answers, and since this entire project was thrown together very suddenly, the security of the computers is, quite literally, the men with the guns standing in the room with the computers, and there is no internet. We sneaker-net the data to an isolated workstation and upload the test results, then wait for a phone call with approval codes (amongst the techs, we called them the 'launch' codes because it determined who got hired, ie, launched). So, I help my friend by writing up some ad-hoc scripting that will detect any new USB devices that connect to the testing stations. This script gets distributed around and nothing more is thought about it. Remember, this is in the days where cybersecurity isn't a word yet, and awareness of security is still only a dot above "A password at least 6 characters in length." Like everything else about the project, it was needed 90 seconds ago and didn't exist as far as anyone knew.

Until my phone rings two weeks later. It's my friend.

$Him: "Hey."

$Me: "Oh hey, what's up?"

$Him: "Dude. That script you made. It's beeping. I told my boss. The guys with shotguns just ran by." (Lab like 'computer lab' — he was still sorta fresh out of college)

He's shaking so bad I can hear the vibration in the earpiece.

$Me: "Ok, stay with me. What do you need me to do?"

$Him: "Hrrr—kay. Well, I don't know anything about programming and my boss asked me how it [the script] knew, and I don't know and then it beeped and–"

$Me: "[name], You didn't do anything wrong, the other guy did. The guns are for his soon to be very sorry ###, so focus on the job. What do you need?"

$Him: "Well, I nurrr…"

(there's some noises and a single woman's scream in the background)

$Me: "Hello? Hello?"

(Sounds of law enforcing and a phone getting dropped)

A few moments pass… I can hear someone picking the phone up. (There's a loud bang)

$Unknown: "Who is this?"

$Me: "This is ######### at ##########, who are you?"

(A less loud bang. I can hear what sounds like an excited but indistinct conversation)

$Unknown: "This is special agent Gnome Detector. Are you the one who saw this guy?"

$Me: "No. I'm tech support for the guy who did."

$GnomeGuy: "His boss said you caught him. How?"

At this exact moment, It took a monumental amount of willpower not to say "I busted him with science."

$Me: "Well, I wrote a script that continuously monitors certain hive registr–"

$GnomeGuy: "Listen nerd squad, I have your, uhh, friend, here… and I better start getting some real answers real fast or he takes the ride too."

Now at this point, I've just heard what for all I know could have been them executing this poor bastard in front of my friend, because a script I wrote was running on a computer somewhere beeped and printed off a workstation name. It was just dawning on me now that my zombie-detector script could have lethal consequences. Not exactly how I thought my day would start. And now I've got my friend, who called me for help, quite possibly going with the guy who just Pulp Fiction'd the server room. I summon every last shred of the past five years of my "Authoritative Customer Service Voice" and not a small amount of courage and answer back.

$Me: "Sir, I would be happy to assist you further, but I need you to put my friend down first."


$Me: "I can answer any questions you have."

(more silence)

$GnomeGuy: "Let me get your phone number and I'll have my guys call your guys back."

So I give him my contact information and then the call ends. Epilogue: My friend was okay. They didn't say or do anything to him. So was the guy they dragged out (not executed!), and he was indeed trying to get a copy of the test… but not for the zombies, but for his friends who were also unemployed. Well, the newly crowned King of the Boneheads lived — he still went to jail. I did receive an e-mail a week or so later just to let me know I needed to call a certain number at a certain place if my phone number or address changed, in case I was needed to testify. My friend did thank me after for "whatever it was" I said to the agent, because it apparently totally changed his demeanor. We surmised after that Authoritative Customer Service Voice must be a lot like Law Enforcement Do What I Say voice. The moral of the story here is, don't try to steal the test answers when the guy who gave you the test is armed — and your phone voice has a lot more power than you give it credit for. Use it wisely, young padowan.


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