Like a ninja in the night, Hanz M., AKA Hanzo, stalks across Hesse University’s Dresden campus. The go-to man in the IT department, he fixes the messes that others leave behind. This is one of his stories.

"You absolutely must read this," Hanzo’s boss Gertrude said. "This is beyond hilarious."

Hanzo took the university newspaper that Gertrude was reading. In the Opinion Editorials section, a whole page was dedicated to a rant by Professor Geiss, a computer science professor.

It has come to my attention that the entire IT staff of Hesse are incompetent. 
How could they be otherwise, when they completely forbid the use of email over the campus WiFi network?

"Oh, that," Hanzo said. Gertrude herself had made the decision to shut down SMTP over wireless when it was discovered that Microsoft Exchange used the same IP address, an uncommon security vulnerability. It made perfect sense to Hanzo and the others at IT, but apparently not to Professor Geiss.

"You look a little upset, Hanzo," Gertrude said.

"I try not to take it personally," Hanzo replied. "Still, it could cause trouble for IT down the road if the administration decides to cut our funding because they all think we’re ‘incompetent.’ I’d like to talk to him personally and convince him to write a retraction."

"You are taking it personally," Gertrude said. "But I’ll cover your back. I’ll email him an invitation."

Authorities and Authentication

Hanzo recalled a passage from The Book of Five Rings. "‘When in a duel, you must forestall the enemy and attack when you have first recognized his school of strategy, perceived his quality and his strong and weak points. Attack in an unsuspecting manner, knowing his meter and modulation and the appropriate timing.’"

Hanzo had discovered that Geiss had written weeks of editorials lambasting Hesse’s entire IT department, as well as some in the administration, for what he considers their "general incompetence." The professor would first attack some policy IT had taken, ignore the rationale behind the decision, then lambast the entire department as ‘incompetent.’ Hanzo wondered if Geiss was that clueless or just malign.

The appointed afternoon arrived. Gertrude showed in Dr. Geiss to the IT office. He scoffed at the hardware on their desks. "Windows? You use Windows? Do you know how insecure it is?"

"All of our software has been hardened by the industry’s best specialists," Gertrude said, changing the subject. "Professor, this is Hans M. He’d like to talk to you about our policy regarding email over WiFi."

"Does he always dress like that?" Geiss muttered as Hanzo, dressed in black, offered his hand. "My boy, I doubt there is any good reason why email should not work over our WiFi network."

"Of course there is," Hanzo said, dropping his hand. He explained the SMTP/Exchange vulnerability.

"Why that’s simple, you ignoramus! Just require authentication for WiFi!"

"We do already," Hanzo replied. "The user authenticates with 802.1X or the network login page."

"No, no," Geiss said, looking a bit confused. "I meant SMTP!"

"The user already does that. It’s part of the SMTP specification."

"No, no, I meant the network!"

"Which uses 802.1X, as I said, or the login page."

"No, you still don’t understand," Geiss said, his brow sweating. "I meant. . ." He checked his watch. "I’m afraid I can’t stay longer to continue this inane conversation. I have an appointment." He gathered his things and left the IT department.

"I don’t think that accomplished much," Gertrude said. "I think you just made him more confused than he started."

"Well," Hanzo said, "if it gets him to stop writing his editorials. . ."

The Duel Never Ends

Ignoramuses, all of them! Just this week I met with some of the staff in the IT department. 
When I confronted them about the business with campus WiFi, they gave me the go-around! Then 
they threw buzzwords in my face to hide the fact that they don’t know what they’re doing! 
It is a shame that we continue to fund a department of fools!

"He’s in a tizzy now," Gertrude said.

"But we’ve won," Hanzo said. "All he can do now is use ad hominem attacks against the department. Most people who read the editorials are smart enough to tell he’s got no real argument."

"You could write your own editorial," Gertrude suggested. "Tell our side of the story."

"I’d rather not," Hanzo said. "Being published next to him would be embarrassing. Far too undignified for IT ninjitsu like myself."

 

Photo credit: Valerie Everett / Foter / CC BY-SA