Computers in the Classroom
Computers in educational institutions are well accustomed to abuse. I recall from secondary school, our Pentium 4 desktops would often have their CD trays opened and the inner elastic band removed. These elastic bands were used as projectile weaponry in the IT Suite, often seen flying across the room. Conveniently reusable, while the CD drives just flashed their lights helplessly, now in a sealed state.
This was about as much attention I ever saw the CD drives get; even in those days (at the mere onset of Cloud-everything) removable media was on the way out. I'll stress that I was never party to such incidents (but found them amusing nonetheless). No, I should share my most serious alleged academic IT incident.
A stab in the lab
During my days at university, I sat down to use a workstation in the computer lab. There I plugged in my memory stick. I noticed when I right clicked that I could scan for viruses. I thought it had been a while since I last did, so I got the PC to scan my memory stick for viruses. Truly, I was paying hefty tuition fees and would make full use of what I was buying. Then I cancelled it because it took a troublingly long time to finish and I had work to do!
The next day I went to login at a university workstation and found my password rejected. Odd, I thought. I raised a hand and asked the lab assistant. I was told I must report to... Information Services! (Gasp with horror)
The Run-in (where I wanted to run out)
I travelled through a long and winding series of corridors and stairwells, then stairwells to more corridors. I had traversed the untold reaches of the C.S. dept and finally reached the sparse but comfortable office of the head Systems Administrator. A sense of unease accompanied me, and it only grew when I knocked and was asked to enter.
Now on my memory stick I kept a number of system admin programs, things that reveal hidden secrets on computers (Nirsoft and Sysinternals tools, for the curious). I used these to play with Windows at home, but they were nothing I would use for harm. I ran none of these programs on their workstation, nonetheless the AV program picked it up and flagged it.
So I had to awkwardly explain myself to the head sysadmin and he looked very sceptical the whole time. He made much of how I'd named the folder 'armoury' but (as you can probably tell) I've a way with names and it wasn't for any intention. Were there any intention, I would name it 'tidy park' or 'sandwich platter' or something equally timid.
After my pleas were heard, he issued me a warning and reset my password. I returned to the quiet lab, hoping my entry would be just as quiet. Though it felt noticed, and attracted the sympathy of the demonstrator who said 'if you are in trouble, you can speak to the Student Union.' Thankfully, it didn't come to that. You never want to owe a debt to the SU.
I will do the following when confronted with a similar situation in the future.
- Never store your harmless system admin tools in an armoury.
- Never scan for viruses on a strange computer.
- Have amusing stories in mind, then dump those on the systems admin. He will be bored from long days of just performing password resets. Entertain him and he will forget why you came, then just reset your password anyway.
- Don't take ideas from any of this story to land anyone else in trouble.