Misguided security, episode 14

I was working in a data center, where we had a couple of Cisco VOIP phones. I don’t know who put them in or when–it’s possible they predated me. We never got them working, but nobody ever really tried, either.

The idea was that two guys working on servers in different datacenters across the WAN might need to talk. The reality was that we didn’t do that very often and usually had other ways to do it–a cellphone being the most obvious option. Our networking guys always had much more pressing issues than getting the VOIP phones working, so the phones just sat there and looked pretty. Until the wrong guy noticed them one day, that is.

One day a guy from facilities management charged into my boss’s cubicle and laid an egg. “Those phones are not authorized in the data center! That’s an emanations issue and I want those phones gone tomorrow!”

One of his golf buddies must have read about emanations somewhere, I guess. The idea is that confidential data from the server could potentially leak onto the phone cable, and someone might be able to reconstruct the data.

My boss tried to explain VOIP to the guy, and how the phones could only talk to other phones on the same WAN, but it only made him madder. Maybe he didn’t understand. Maybe he didn’t want to understand.

Fisher-Price phone
I wonder how much of an emanations risk one of these would be?

After another rant and another egg on the floor, my boss asked the question he probably should have asked in the first place: Does it make a difference that the phones aren’t even plugged in?

Actually, it didn’t. Since they weren’t even plugged in, it wouldn’t be a problem at all for the phones to be gone by tomorrow now, would it?

So the network guys removed the phones, and the pointy-haired guy was happy again. Well, as happy as he ever got, at least.

I can’t tell you how badly I wanted to bring in a couple of Fisher-Price phones and put them in the racks where he could see them, though.

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