It's been a great year here at The Daily WTF and according to our in-house statisticians, The Firing Offense by Charles Robinson, published on May 21st, was our most popular article in 2013! Enjoy and see you back on January 2nd, 2014.


Egon was fortunate enough to land a front-line support job fresh out of college, but he didn’t enjoy a single minute of it. He continued to slog thru the seven circles of Helldesk for about a year until he found an opportunity to move on. An opening at nearby WTF University’s Electronic Engineering department needed to be filled by a well-rounded IT guy. Egon didn’t think he had much of a chance to land the job, but desperation made him try.

The head of the Engineering department, Bill, invited Egon in for an interview. “I’m not going to lie to you,” Bill said. “We don’t have anyone to keep our computer systems running right now since the last guy left on a ‘Mission’ to South America. We’re in a bind here so if you know the difference between a computer chip and a potato chip, you’re qualified enough.” The interview didn’t get any harder. He explained to Bill what knowledge he had and asked what the workload and hours would be like. “Oh, I don’t know. We don’t care what hours you work as long as you’re available if we need you. If nothing is going wrong with the computers, feel free to make yourself at home in our lab and do some ‘research’ of your own. Would you be able to start next week?”

It was hard to say “Yes” any faster than Egon did.

Several weeks at WTF U flew by and Egon knew this was his dream job. He made more money, the work load was very light and he didn’t have to deal with complete morons on the phone any more. He couldn’t think of any set of circumstances where he would leave, especially not for a silly ‘Mission’.

The biggest problem Egon ever faced was determining just what to screw around with during his ample downtime. There was the 16 core workstation that he installed “borrowed” copies of several computer games on. There was the electronics lab where he would make Frankenstein devices out of spare circuit boards and resistors. He even wired up some motion sensors to the doors so they made the Star Trek door opening noise when someone entered.

Egon was free to do nearly anything. He discovered the “environmental testing chamber” was just the right temperature to keep a case of beer refreshingly cold. He spent his lunch breaks sipping a few brews then crushing the cans with a device he made out of an old vacuum pump. During times when WTF U was out of session and the department was practically empty, he would include more illict, combustible refreshment with his liquid lunch. The industrial ventilation system took care of the smoke.

Any of these things might have been a firing offense, anywhere else. The students loved him, the faculty were happy with his performance, and Bill hadn’t heard a single complaint. Something else entirely got Egon fired.

One day, he found some old mag-stripe readers in a forgotten desk drawer. Egon blew the dust off and connected one to his workstation via parallel port. More-so out of curiosity than malice, he decided to see how hard cloning his WTF U security badge might be. His badge did everything from pay for his lunch in the cafeteria to grant him access to areas restricted only to Engineering personnel.

The stripe on the card was bi-phase encoded and used a standard ISO character set so Egon was able to write a quick app to decode what was essentially plaintext. One swipe, and Egon was stunned to find only his staff ID number staring back at him. Impossible! Everyone’s staff ID number was available in the University’s directory. Anyone could view it. Armed with someone’s staff ID number, Egon or anyone with the know-how could make an ID card from credit card, train ticket or just a piece of card with some VHS tape stuck to the back. Once the card was cloned, it might be used for anything from paying for parking to getting in to the BioChem lab where the smallpox sample was kept!

Egon couldn’t keep this knowledge to himself. He called Bill right away and explained the issue. “Thanks for reporting this!” Bill said. “I’ll pass this on to my superiors and make sure they know you’re the one who discovered this!” Egon hung up and beamed with pride. Surely he had done a good deed and saved WTF U unthinkable troubles down the line. Maybe he would even get a raise or a promotion to “security expert” or something!

The next day, Egon came to work, ready to receive his due accolades. Instead, he found Bill at his desk frowning and holding an empty box. “I’m sorry, kid. The powers-that-be interpreted your findings as a blatant attack on our security system and they told me to fire you immediately… There’s nothing I can do. You did good work, while you were here.” Egon’s head spun as he grasped at the reality that his dream job came to an abrupt end.

Egon struggled to say something to Bill. All he could come up with was “Can I at least get my beer out of the enviro test chamber?”