Why You Should Never Steal From a Linux Admin

Being a sysadmin does come with its ups and down.  It’s not a job which comes with glory or fame. When things work no one even remembers to give you a pat in the back. You only hear from them when things go wrong (+ It won’t get you laid or score you high with the girls :D ). You get to spend countless hours dealing with “me myself and I” users who always seem to have issues that can escalate to bringing the world as we know it to an end if not promptly attended to.  The pay is bad and the work hours are long. Simply put system administration is a job for those who love and have a passion for administering computers and their users.

However being a sysad is not all doom and gloom.  Occasionally some ray of fun and power shines through the lonely boring Text based computer terminal (where we get to spend most of our working – and non working- hours). THAT day was one of the such days.

I had to do some work in the computer lab the day before. But when I closed for the day I left behind my most priced Scandisk 4GB usb thumb drive. I left it attached to a workstation I was setting up. I realized this very late and even then was too tired to bother going back to get it. Next day when I got to work I discovered that my thumb drive was missing. I asked some students who use the lab if there have seen my drive but no one seem to have any information about it. I was going to give up when a colleague suggested I check the syslog to see when the drive was removed from the pc it was attached to.  Syslog showed it was disconnected around 22:05 5  hours after I closed from work.

Jul 22 22:05:19 aust-desktop kernel: [25109.783629] usb 1-6: USB disconnect, address 4

Every computer where I work has been configured to authenticate with our central ldap server. The particular PC I was working on however has not been set up to use this authentication so chances are that the individual who took my usb drive must have gone to the PC with the intention of use it for work before noticing the drive. He most have tried logging in and  because the PC was not connected to ldap must have been told his login was not successful. Either way I decided to check the auth. Log of the PC which keeps a record of all logging attempts. From there I noticed a failed logging in from a certain username at around 22:03 (about the same time the usb was disconnected).

Jul 22 22:03:49 aust-desktop gdm-session-worker[2653]: pam_succeed_if(gdm:auth): error retrieving information about user nameofuser

I went through the record of our users and was able to link the username to the particular user. Thankfully his phone number was also part of the records. I simply gave him a call and politely asked him to give back what belong to me. He stuttered and said he had taken it for safe keeping. I said I completely understood ;) thanked him and told him I would appreciate if he could drop the drive at my desk. I am happy to say that I got my drive back Thanks to a little bit of luck mixed with some sysadmin Ninja moves. :D

Guess we can say the moral of the story is NEVER steal a usb drive belonging to your system admin especially when it is connected to a system that runs *Unix. Or better still don’t steal period :D

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  • http://perspective.cfezra.com Ezra 0x18fc1529 Olubi

    Lol. Great post!

    • / bigbrovar

      We system admins are like the eyes of mordor we see through flesh and bone :p

  • http://hmusick.wordpress.com/ hhaka

    This so funny post :D

    • / bigbrovar

      Thanks :)

  • Tacogrande55

    the sysadmin could do much more damage ;)

  • Ian

    What if you are a girl? Are sysads only boys? That sounds kind of latent to me.

    • / bigbrovar

      Sysadmin like the legal profession is unisex IMHO. A sysadmin is a sysadmin before he is a boy or girl :)

  • http://jacroe.com/ Jacob Roeland

    That is awesome… But you could've made it far worse. Like log in to the system he was on and do a little messing with his head. I know I would've.

  • http://www.catharcyst.com billy

    damn that will teach em not to mess with linux ninjas :)

    • / bigbrovar

      yeah hehe

  • http://www.ivankristianto.com Ivan Kristianto

    Don't mess up with linux ninja :p

  • M.

    Whoever said that Being a sysadmin wont score you high with the ladies :-D ???

    • / bigbrovar

      Oh well it? :D

  • http://www.jellykernel.org Jelly Kernel

    Awesome ;)

  • akita16384

    Great post! A super geeky story with tantalizing details and a happy ending! :D
    When will hollywood learn to have proper or more realistic electronic sleuthing than displaying big “DELETING FILES … … ” or “ENTER YOUR PASSWORD [ * * * * * * ]” dialog boxes. :D

    Thanks again!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PUVWJZ4ZSGZNAYRXSRR2ZSFKRI Wale

    Nice One

  • http://twitter.com/n3rve Ralph Otowo

    Well, you’re lucky the workstation was turned on, else they’d have been no logs to run back to :P

  • Anonymous

    This is great but you can do it far worse. Log in to the system as he is doing a little head confused. I know I have.

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  • Douglas Whitfield

    I met a few girls by being “the computer guy” but I suppose it’s true I wasn’t a sysadmin at the time. In fact, one of those girls I dated for over two years.

  • Afewgoodmen

    Nice one, Bobby. You’re a true Tech guru that many of us could only hope to be like. And you make Linux sound like so much fun. However, I’d rather stick to my Windows Deskstop OS and Mac OsX that I’ve come to know over the years. I still believe that it would be an uphill task learning To use Linx/Unix!

    It was quite great the way you caught the culprit. ‘Twas just like an 007 story.

    And despite all you try, you still manage to make SysAd appear to be a great occupation. If I’m looking for a job next time, perhaps I’d look that way. What qualifications does one need to be a System Admin?