You won't believe what's been going on the Boss's credit card...and it's not just the BOFH who thinks that'll do nicely - he's got a new flexible friend...

Year 1998 - Episode 39

I'm scanning through the swathes of my early morning e-mail, culling out all the spam messages about credit cards, free home loans, career opportunities and new, improved sex sites.

Propagating our Web cache with smut apparently destined for the Boss is a sure-fire way to get immunity from a bollocking if you're caught browsing at it yourself during work time, and it solves the hassle of having to wait for the stuff to load over the smut site's crappy Ethernet connection.

True, loading the Boss's corporate credit card details into the robot was a little on the nose, but it all boils down to what you're willing to pay for a good cache service.

And the Boss sure is paying - I've had to have his credit card limit extended twice this month just to keep up with the volume of incoming material the patient and inquisitive robot has found.

If he didn't want to buy anything with his credit card, he wouldn't have got one in the first place. Nor would he have left it carelessly lying around in a sealed envelope, locked in his briefcase, secured inside that filing cabinet drawer marked 'IT94 conference proceedings', in the cleaners' cupboard at the far end of the building. He was just asking for it to be used.

However, I'm pleased to say that the cache is responding well to the challenge now that I've whacked those two new nine gig drives into the server. In other words, it's a happy ending - or beginning...

"I've got a problem with these machine usage stats," the Boss blurts, entering the office in such a hurry I have to terminate my 'cache-occupancy hit stats survey' by switching my monitor off.

"What problem is that?" I ask.

"Well, according to this, my machine does a hell of a lot of traffic in off-peak hours."

"Really?" I respond, upset that my little smut-acquiring goldmine looks like meeting its end.

"Oh that'll just be DHCP mapping playing up again," the PFY jumps in. "It's just because our DNS isn't dynamic, so it's charged against your machine, but really is some other machine using the IP address you were using when the IP usage stats program was run!"

"Duh - really?" the Boss responds, so far out of his technical depth he's looking for a life raft and water wings.

"Yeah, it's nothing to worry about."

"Oh," the Boss says, happy in the knowledge that his desktop is faithful to him only. "So who is generating the IP traffic then?"

"Ah...that'll probably be our site's Web server," I jump in.

"But I thought you told me last week that servers weren't going to use DHCP?" the Boss quips, annoying me with an unexpected attack of accurate recall.

"No, no, I said that surfers don't use DHCP - because...ah...most of them don't even have PCs...and those who do don't take them to the beach anyway..."

"What have surfers got to do with our company?" the Boss blurts, even more confused than normally...

"Nothing that I know of," I respond.

"So why did you tell me about it?"

"Just passing the time of day..."

Our conversation is interrupted by the arrival of a beancounter wearing a worried expression, which can only mean that the credit card eagle has landed. Crash landed by the sour look on his face.

"It's about your company credit card," he mumbles anxiously.

"What about it?"

"It's £23,000 in the red!"

I'm a bit shocked at this figure, as I only cranked the card limit up to £10k, but put it down to a credit card company keen to generate revenue...

"That's preposterous," the Boss blurts.

"It's all here in black and white - but mostly red," the beancounter says, handing over some papers.

"What's this And who the hell is the Progressive Press in Amsterdam?"

A warning bell rings in my head as I don't recall any Web-site by that name. I grab the papers from the beancounter and find that Web traffic accounts for only about 10 per cent of the charges therein, the rest appearing to be for merchandise shipped into the UK...

"I have no idea," the beancounter responds. "But it's all above board on your card..."

"It can't be, my card's locked away safely, in a drawer in a cabling cupboard."

"A cleaning cupboard, I think you'll find," I mention, cheerfully.

"And in a filing cabinet," the PFY adds.

"Sealed in an envelope, in a briefcase," the beancounter finishes smugly, much to the surprise of the PFY and I.

So it seems there's a new player in the game - a beancounter gone bad. Excellent.

The Boss burbles some crap about us not getting away with it, and rushes off to get his card cancelled.

"The horse has bolted on that one," the beancounter chirps happily. "Besides, I used his old card as leverage for a new one with a different bank."

"And...?" I ask, preparing for war.

"I sent the Boss's details in e-mail. Not encrypted with his public key of course, yours in fact - what an oversight!"

"So what you're saying is the Boss has an e-mail message he can't read..."

"That anyone with your private key intercepting that e-mail could..."

It's a wet and windy afternoon when the crack security force of the building break into the Boss's office and drag him up to the board for a good spanking. Apparently his claims of innocence fell upon deaf ears when enquiries revealed that the shipping address for the 'progressive' media was the Boss's summer house...

One down, too many more to go.

But at least we have an ally in the enemy camp...