Hi, I'm Joe Daonet, and I'd like to share with a strange story that took place a few years back. It's quite complicated, but I think you'll enjoy it.
I woke up late one morning. Not that this is an unusual occurance. As a matter of fact, it happens quite frequently. I drove to work faster than usual. It was nice until some left-lane enforcers blocked my way. I was trying to top my old top speed of 135 km/h. It wasn't meant to be today; the fastest I could go today was 132 km/h. Very disappointing.
I got to work just after 9. No one noticed. I don't know what I'm doing here. I just sit and wait. I try to learn as much as I can in hopes one day that I'll be useful.
"Maybe today would be the day," I thought to myself. I sat eagerly in front of my laptop checking the status of the equipment. "ALL NODES ONLINE." Nope. Nothing today.
Suddenly, disaster struck!!! The node called 'WebServer' suddenly went down. I opened up a browser, and attempted to access our web site. Firefox told me that there was an error connecting to the server. Panic started building up inside me.
I opened up a terminal and pinged the server's IP. Nothing.
Hackers! They had probably not only brought down our web site, but stolen all the credit card numbers, login names, and passwords, too!
I walked over to the webserver (it was in the next room) and was relieved to see that the Ethernet wire cable had fallen out the cable modem. I plugged it back in, and we were online again, after a total downtime of about a minute and a half.
But my mind would not rest. How had the server been disconnected?
The obvious answer was that someone had disconnected the cable, but who would do such a thing? And what would be the point? And how could they have gotten out of the room before I got there. Well, maybe there had just been time for someone to run out of the room and down the hall out of my sight.
I decided that this might be the kind of trick my boss might play just to keep me on my toes. I called her on the phone and got her assistant, "Network Services, can I help you?"
"Hi, Dave. This is Joe."
"Hey, bro, what's up?"
I explained, "I need to talk to Erin about a service interruption we just had on the website."
"She's out of the office." I could almost hear an unsaid and resentful 'again' at the end of his sentence. Dave was so efficient that Erin usually had nothing to do at the office and often did not bother coming in. She had three kids and telecommuted most days and did not care if Dave did half of her job. Dave asked, "Is it an emergency?"
"No." I told him about the cable disconnection.
"That's pretty weird. What do you expect Erin to do about it?"
"Nothing. I was wondering if someone was playing a joke on me."
Dave laughed. "I wish I had thought of it, but if I had done it I would have been there with a camera to get a shot of you having a heart attack."
"Well, I'm really just trying to cover my ass. I'll send her an email.
"Let me give you her home phone number. No, wait, I'm not supposed to give that out. Look, I have a few things I need to ask her. I'll call and take care of my business, then I'll tell her you need to talk to her. Stay by your phone."
Dave cut out connection. I wanted to go back to the server room and make sure that nothing else had been touched in there, but I decided I could wait by the phone for a few minutes. I initiated a full system diagnostics run and started thinking.
I seemed to remember hearing about some trojan horse software that could get into the type of server we used, but only when there were certain types of system restarts. I checked the system log and took note of the subsystem restarts that had been triggered by the cable disconnection. Then I checked the server email accounts to see if anyone had fired off a complaint about the service interruption. I was just starting to read recent emails in the complaints account when the phone rang.
It was Dave. "I'll connect you to Erin."
Erin came on the line. "Hi, Joe."
"Hi, Erin, thanks for calling.
"Dave says we had a server problem," said Erin.
"Physical disconnect. Someone must have pulled the cable connection then ran. It only took me 20 seconds to get in there."
"Shit. Who would do such a thing?" Erin sounded mystified.
There was a long silence. I still half expected she would admit to having put Dave to it as a joke. Finally I said, "Well, I was wondering if you or Dave was playing a trick."
"Sorry, but you don't get of the hook that easy. I asked Dave if he was playing with you and he denied it. I believe him. Who else has access?"
"I did not know that Dave has access to the server. I thought you , I and the custodial staff were the only ones with keys. to the server room."
"I leave my keys in my office. Dave knows where they are. Could one of the custodians have accidentally knocked the cable off?"
I explained, "This isnt the sort of connection that can just get knocked off by accident. And they only go in there once a weak, Friday evenings, I believe."
Another long silence. "Well, I'm grasping at straws."
I suggested, "Maybe I should call the police."
She sounded surprised. "What do you expect them to do?"
"Nothing. I doubt they would come out. But we would be on record as having reported the event. If a client lost a file or something during the service disruption, we could be facing a demand for damages. For insurance purposes, we should have a police report on record."
"No, I don't want to do that unless we have to. Call the service center in India and have them report any complaints about the service failure. If we get a serious complaint, call the police and tell them about the cable. Anything else?"
I suggested, "I could put a camera in the server room to record who enters."
This really surprised her. She asked, "You think this is going to happen again?"
"I don't know what happened this time, but you know the saying: fool me once...."
"Ya, ya. You might be right. Use your judgement. I'll be in the office on Friday. Let's meet and you can give me a full report." She cut the connection.
The Attack of the Eggplant
That night I had to work overtime. I had a lot of work to do, so now I stared extra hard, much more than usual, at my laptop. "ALL NODES ONLINE." The message did not waver. Getting bored, I decided to play a game of Minesweeper. I played a few but I kept losing because I was concentrating on the laptop's status message. Then I heard footsteps. I quickly closed the game and resumed my stare. Brian, one of my friends, walked it. I turned around we exchanged greetings.
"Sorry to interrupt your work," he said, "but something strange happened to me. I know I can tell you."
What was this about?
"I was walking in the hallway when an eggplant fell on me," said Brian.
I wasn't expecting something like that. "An eggplant?"
"Yeah, just out of the blue," explained Brian. "I was quite shocked, of course. I looked up and I saw a hole in the ceiling. I could see the stars outside."
"What floor were you on?" I asked.
"The second," he replied.
"So the eggplant went through a lot of storeys," I observed.
"Yeah," said Brian. "I don't want anybody to find out because this was kind of weird."
"Well, someone else is bound to notice all the holes," I pointed out.
"I guess so," said Brian.
"So, I think we should tell other people," I said. "Meet me by Erin's office at 11 on Friday." It would be best for him to tell the story directly.
"That would work fine," said Brian. He left and I resumed staring at the screen. I had to stare even harder to make up for the time lost talking to Brian. As I did so, I thought about the mysterious events of that day. I wondered what would happen with all the holes. They would be discovered long before Friday.
Perhaps, I'd finally do something useful.