Abusing the Office Phone

There was a time when Augusta was treated with respect at work. Before the kids, before the career break, before the acrimonious divorce. Hubby had faked a pre-nup and the lawyers sucked up every dollar she had left in the custody battle. So he’s sitting pretty, watching share options as the NYSE breaches 10000, while Augusta is chasing short-term contract work. Worst part of life’s deal? She’d ended up being hired by her ex’s latest tech start-up, dumped with all the testing no-one wanted to do. Working with an all-male troop of just-out-of-teens acne-scarred know-alls who really didn’t. Adolescents for whom the rarity of a woman in the office meant either scenery enhancements for voyeuristic fantasies or, if you were approaching Augusta’s age, the butt of a pile of sexist, ageist bullshit. Yet today was her last day, and Augusta was going to have some fun.

“Hey Grandma, what’s the stupid toy on your desk?” Great, Rick with another of his engaging conversation starters, Augusta thought.

“It’s a couple of ARM11 chips running a virtualized VAX cluster. VMS Operating System with BLISS, FORTRAN and ADA compilers targeting the Common Language Environment. Just a prototype I’m working on. ”

“Jeez, lame, where do you learn your computer skills, freaking Stone Age?”

“Like it says on the CV. Harrogate, North Yorkshire. The UK, Rick.”

“Jeez, limeys, like I said, the freaking Stone Age. You’re a museum piece. Look, I’ve got a pile of blade servers coming for a new internet hosting service later, so move your shit, Grandma.”

“In a minute, Rick, just finishing off here.”

Augusta connected the modem lead into the phone socket.

“You’ve plugged into the phone, doofus. Network socket is under the desk.”

“Thanks, Rick.”

He wandered off to the office coffee bar for another Mocca Frappuccino, third of the day.

But the plain old telephony service was just what Augusta needed. So what if this was 2007. Stuff that matters runs on VMS; stock exchanges, air traffic control centers, Postal Service, IRS, NSA, banks and ATMs. Basically anything critical, because for every VMS security flaw CERT reports, there’s 20 on Linux and 30 on Windows.

Although for Augusta, ex-software lead on ECHELON and author of SILKWORTH, secure is a relative term. She knows most of these critical systems still have a long forgotten X.25 DTE, unused and unloved perhaps, but just waiting for Augusta. First call is to her old friend JANET. Straight in, account still live, passwords not even changed. Command line buffer-overflow to smash the stack, quick FINGER and SYSPRV’s your uncle. Now just an XOT tunnel via Abilene (don’t rock the boat) then a couple of DNICS away and hello Wells Fargone.

“Hey Augusta, you still abusing the office phone?” Rick now back, Mocca running down his goatee, dripping onto his sneakers.

“I’ll be finished soon enough.”

“You were finished years ago. We’re ramping up with agile development and Ajax. Bet you think Ajax is for cleaning the bathroom and agile development’s a Pilates class.”

“You’re a real card, Rick.”

Switched virtual circuit established, account accessed, transfer to Cayman Islands complete. Wow, so much venture capital sloshing in the ex’s business, it will be ages before these funds will ever be missed, and even if they are the dodgy transfer will be traced back to the start-up’s own office. Auditors will think it’s just another run-aground dot-com.

“Hey, senior citizen, the servers’ve arrived, move the doorstop.”

“Sure, I’m finished now, Rick, and you’re right, it’s time for me to hang up, job done. Maybe retire to a little place in the Caribbean.”