The big steal

Secret CIO goes undercover

Tags: Data leakageUnited Arab Emirates
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By  Secret CIO Published  August 22, 2009

As last month's visit to a CIO conference conclusively proved, I have nothing to gain from networking with my fellow peers. In lieu of anything better to do, I decided to indulge my thirst for information. And what better way to do that than to indulge in a spot of corporate espionage? The idea seemed appealing and a throwback to my youth of daring escapades and a rather mild case of kleptomania.

Now, I want to be very clear about this: under no circumstances am I advocating theft or any derivative thereof as a means of obtaining confidential information. This is a hypothetical scenario that was most certainly never planned or executed in any shape or form. Any similarities to events that have occurred - either real or fictional - is purely coincidental.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let's get stuck into the planning of this (completely fictional) scenario. I decided that my target would have to exclude one of the more heavily-protected verticals like banking and finance. Anyone who works with money for a living would be deeply versed in the ways of protecting it. Ditto for oil and gas - for something that requires a pipeline the size of your house to cart away, they have an awful lot of security guards on patrol.

If you think that I am being a little vague, it's because I'd rather not invite a lawsuit from the company that I again, obviously, didn't manage to nick highly confidential documents from. So you'll just have to settle for my assurance that it was a high-flyer.

From the very beginning, I knew/assumed that getting in would be easy. Most companies out here employ security staff that are little better than rent-a-cops. My first attempt to gain access was to enter disguised as a deliveryman with a "courier parcel." Unfortunately, my plans were stymied when they snatched the parcel away and insisted on delivering it themselves. To this day, the CEO is probably wondering why he received a collection of old shredded newspapers, 500g of crushed Cocoa Pops and two pounds of melted butter shipped from an non-existent post office box in the middle of the desert.

Attempt number two was a little more devious. I entered with a large crowd of staffers, figuring that being in the centre of the herd would be safest. I was also counting on that safe standby in social engineering; nobody in the group would admit to not knowing who I was.

It worked - and I was finally in the office. Unfortunately, not being a resident, I looked as out of place as a fish escaping the wet stuff. All around me, people were taking their seats. With nowhere to go, I headed for the nearest meeting room, only to find the hallway guarded by yet another swipe-access thingy. In lieu of a better plan, I ducked into the bathroom and sat down in a stall to plan my next move.

The CIO's office wouldn't be anywhere near the boardroom, I reasoned, so it would most likely be in the lower half of the building. Once there, I would only have moments to affect an entry into his office, as the geeks would quickly detect a new entrant into their native habitat and pounce like an angry pack of hyenas. The best strategy would be to walk hard and fast towards the corner office without making eye contact.

So I headed out of the stall, where another staffer was washing his hands. It was all too easy - I complained bitterly about the speed of my machine today. It was like the starting gun at a racecourse. Not only did the man agree, he then proceeded to rail against the IT department for their perceived failings - both professionally and sartorially - for the best of 20 minutes during which I nodded and hummed at all the right points. At the end when I expressed a desire to go and give them a piece of mind, he happily told me how to get there and gave me several physically impossible suggestions about items to introduce to their anatomy.

The lift trip down to the bowels of the building was filled with trepidation. What would I find there in the darkness? Which manner of beast would choose to lurk in a dark office illuminated only by the flickering light of dying CRTs? And what foul creature would dare to keep watch over such an unruly den of inequity and mayhem?

The answer, next month.

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