Photo Credit: Lou Angeli Digital @ Flickr By day, Jeff is an IT Administrator and, by night, a volunteer fire fighter. Both positions occasionally involve fighting fires, but Jeff’s duties and the training he receives while at the fire station are a complete 180 from what he does for a living and, in fact, is exactly why he enjoys it so much. However, on occasion, both worlds collide, especially when the fire department needs some IT expertise – such as when the doors and locks were to be upgraded to use keycards for access.

Over the course of several evenings, Jeff reviewed several vendors, determined which doors needed to be fitted with the new locks, calculated total cost of ownership - basically, all the due diligence he would normally do at his day job when someone would request the purchase of a new piece of computer hardware. Prior to the installation date, Jeff asked Tom, a fairly technically-minded colleague who specialized in smoke alarm and sprinkler systems, to act as the go-to guy for the installer when he arrived by answering any questions that might arise.

When the install date finally arrived, Jeff went about his normal daytime admin duties, not really even thinking that much about the installation when about mid-afternoon, he received a phone call from the fire station.

“Hey Jeff, Tom here. The installer’s tech guy just arrived, and he needs the username and the password to the router."

“Wait, what? Why would he — err, what exactly does he need it for?”

A few minutes later, Tom did his best to answer. “It took a while to get it out of him, but he said he needed to open some ports on the firewall.”

“Ugh. Let me talk to him. I can do that remotely, depending on what he needs.”

“Alright I’ll get him, hang on…uh huh…yeah, I understand. Ok, he says that it’s not easily explained over the phone. Any way you can swing by and talk to this guy?”

“Sure, but that’ll have to wait until tomorrow,” explained Jeff, “I scheduled to come in later on this evening. Get a list of ports he needs opened and I’ll make the changes and he can finish things up.”

“Okay, hang on again…uh huh… Alright, he’s booked up solid until next week and he needs to finish up today or we won’t have the keycards working until then.”

“Fine – ask him to stay there,” Jeff huffed into his receiver, “I’ll leave work and will be there soon.”

About an hour later, half of which was spent grumbling, Jeff pulled into the fire station parking lot and watched the security company van disappear into the distance. Tom greeted him at the fire station entrance with a disappointing look. “Sorry, I tried to keep him, but he had another appointment to run to.”

Annoyed, Jeff asked, “I had to play a 'fire emergency' card for this! Did he at least leave some instructions on what to do?”

“That’s the good news - after quite a bit of fumbling around, he said that he could come back and finish up if he could gain access to just one port.”

“I still don’t get that, their system shouldn’t even need the network... and even if it did, there’s nothing blocking outbound connections.”

Tom smiled, not having any clue what Jeff was talking about. “Well, anyway, here’s what he needed.”

Jeff opened up the folded-up piece of paper and found a single “port” written on it: COM1.

Although Jeff found himself spending the next few hours undoing the horrible configuration mess that the installer’s “tech guy” left on the alarm server, he was reassured about one thing: this is exactly why he doesn’t give anyone the password to the router.