A Day in the Life of an IT Pro: Poisoned by the Ethernet

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As I’ve previously mentioned, being an IT pro often requires some super sleuthing. Sometimes this can be through the actual systems and networks, and sometimes it means donning the cloak and hat and physically hunting down the issue.

Picture the scene: I’d finally received a long desired promotion at work, and was now in charge of managing the wireless system there. We were using an amalgamation of Cisco and Avaya APs and controllers, thick and thin APs with somewhat decent LAN links, routers and switches. This was also at the time when BYOD had been introduced, so there were a large number of these devices on a guest SSID, on top of some notebooks that had definitely seen better days, roaming the business network.

Obviously with promotions come new challenges. My first was when, rather mysteriously, random APs stopped responding. The plot thickened after scanning the wireless connection history. The issue was only occurring every other Friday, on two floors of the building and specifically between 11:00 and 4:00pm. Worst of all, it was happening on the corporate network.

I got out my trusty sidekick (my laptop) and set up a monitoring alert to notify me with the whereabouts of any AP failures. The following Friday I set myself up by the lift and waited. Within half an hour I was rewarded with an alert and set off to the second floor. There I found Clive, a frequent home worker from Farnborough. I immediately saw what the issue was: he was working from what must have been the oldest laptop in the company.

Clive seemed slightly set in his ways, and explained his laptop worked just fine and there had never been any need to get it upgraded. The only downside he could see was that he “could never get the WiFi working, even when in the office”, so just like at home, he simply plugged in an Ethernet cable to access the net.

After talking Clive through all the benefits (and possibly bribing him with a jazzy new laptop case and a Bluetooth headset), I persuaded him to take a brand new laptop which, much to his surprise, he actually rather liked. I even caught him marveling at its speed and working WiFi when he thought I wasn’t looking. His poisonous Ethernet cable went straight to the bin where it belonged.

Whilst this was easily resolved manually, this is not a practical way to monitor and repair network issues and actively spot security breaches. Instead of managing processes manually, report generation and network monitoring should be automated, allowing the IT team to focus on more pressing business needs.

What I did take away from this encounter though, is that perhaps we assume that everyone within the business is as clued up on security as we IT pros are. After the incident with Clive I ran a series of IT security training sessions with various teams across the company. The sessions were time-consuming, but the long term benefits have rolled on and on.

Since then, I’ve not needed to play detective once, and have been able to use my time to improve overall business efficiency. And repair the odd printer. Some things never change…

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