Way back in the noughties I had the misfortune to work in a sixth form college. Regular readers will recall this was in the post industrial landscape that is Yorkshire. Cameron’s recent moral panic calls to mind the overbearing system of “safe guarding” that was in place at the college.
I must provide some back story. The IT manager could quite easily have been diagnosed with Aspergers had he been twenty years younger. He didn’t like change. Not one bit. Dingleberry, as I will refer to him, was one of those people who insisted on particular ways. Deviation from which would bring calamity, disaster and the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
For example, one hot sunny day in May he insisted that the units, switches, servers and tape machines in the server cabinet be taken out and arranged in numerical, colour and size order. Why? No reason was given other than aesthetics.
Every piece of software had to be installed with default settings. “Out of the box”. Same with hardware. I dread to think of the security issues that he made with such a work ethic. Indeed, such was the “DO NOT TOUCH” attitude, the Active Directory contained accounts of people that had left the college over 5 years ago. That is the level of finickiness he operated on.
One day a whole class got into trouble for not submitting their history homework on time. The students were required to email their work to the teacher who would then assess the work and send it back. Only the teacher didnt recieve any work.
The teacher was a bit shit to be fair. She, like several other teachers I’ve met over the years, seemed to suffer from paranoia probably brought on by inadequacies, stress and plain stupidity. This particular teacher was convinced that this particular class had a grudge and were out to get her.
Sadly this was not the case.
However what happened was much more convoluted than any of her minor conspiracies.
The class were insistent that work had been emailed from home. The teacher became convinced that the class were telling fibs. Eventually she came to the helpdesk door to see me.
She told me that there was a problem with email.
Not so. I told her, demonstrating how I was able to send emails from an external account to my work account with ease.
The problem morphed into one to do with attachements.
Not so. Again, I demonstrated me sending emails with attachments with no issue whatsoever.
Don’t be stupid. But I’ll investigate further.
I asked the IT Manager if there was any issue with emails.
None that he could see.
I asked the IT Technician if there was any issue with emails.
Only an issue with the space between the chair and the keyboard.
I asked the Server Troll if there was any issue with emails.
No but there was an issue with his latest game of Dungeons and Dragons.
I asked the head of IT.
None that he knew of. However, I should check the newly installed spam filters.
I checked the spam filters. Therein there was over a hundred thousand emails. This was going to take me a long time to investigate.
Turned out that the spam filters contained “Out of the box” keywords. A whole lexicon or rude words, curses, inappropriateness and the like. Included were words such as: Pharmacy, penis, length, cock, schlong, kiddies, nazi, hate, escort, kill, death, murder, hitler, vagina, gash, flange, white power, drugs and much much more.
So you’ll probably now have guessed. The out of the box filtering had picked up that the emails sent to the history teacher with the assignment on the Second World War contained foul language such as hitler, nazi, gas chamber, antisemitism. The very same settings that Dingleberry refused to allow me to change.
So I changed it anyway and released the history homework (Nazi, Hitler etc), the chemistry homework (pharmacy, drugs etc) and the biology homework. I released the personal messages sent from divorce approaching husbands regarding them picking up the “kiddies” in the Escort after work to their end of the line with you wives.
I added a keyword.
I won’t say what.
But let’s just say that Dingleberry no longer received emails. Certain…important emails.