Yet another high-priority support request buzzed into John's phone, just like the hundred before it, and the hundred sure to come. There wasn't any point reading the email. It'd just tell him what he already knew.

"eCommerce clients can't connect to the FTP server since this morning," John announced, entering the lair of Clayton, the company's Network Guru (self titled). "Is something wrong with the FTP server?"


Then silence. Clayton didn't look up from his monitor. His slicked hair shone with the glow of a thousand server-rack blinks.

John waited, sure that there was a follow-up to that statement. His phone buzzed, then buzzed again. "Um-- I checked it myself," John prompted, "I'm pretty sure something's wrong with the FTP server."

"Nope. I was just in there this morning applying patches and I didn't see anything wrong."

John's mind nearly segfaulted trying to parse the logic behind that statement.

"So this morning," John echoed back. This morning, the same time the emails had started. "Did you make any changes to the FTP server?"

"Nope," Clayton answered, scrolling through the site he was reading.

"But you applied security patches, right?"

Clayton nodded. "Yeah."

John took out his phone. It buzzed three more times before he got a console open.

"Did you block FTP access?"


John connected to staging server outside the company network, and ran nmap. "What about ports 20-23?"

"Yeah, security patches." Clayton middle-clicked a half-dozen article links, and kept reading.

"So-- would that keep our customers from FTPing to eCommerce?"


John tapped in a command, ftp The connection could not be established.

"But I can repro the support calls. So, traffic on 21's blocked by the firewall?"


"But, what about--" John's question was cut off both by the incessant buzzing of his phone, and by Clayton pointing a bony finger at his second monitor.


A FTP console was open-- to ftp://ecom.internal

"So-- FTP is working because you can connect to it by an internal route?"


John flinched at the new sound his phone made-- the sound of creaking plastic. He gently eased his grip, and slowly put his phone away. He took a deep breath. He didn't want to accidentally snap his phone in half-- and he didn't want to throttle the guru. Well, he did want to-- but shouldn't.

"Okay," John said finally, "So your patch this morning closed port 21 to access from outside traffic-- but did you make any changes that affect external FTP users?"


So many questions flashed through John's mind. Was Clayton afraid of being blamed for the change? Did he really not see the connection between cause and effect? Was he really this dense? Would any jury in the world convict John?

John's phone buzzed, reminding him that there still customers desperate for their FTP access. Why couldn't Clayton just give it back to them?

"Why", indeed.

John simply asked, "Can you open port 21 on the eComm server's firewall to external traffic?"

"Yeah," Clayton replied. He popped open a console and fired off a quick iptables. Almost immediately, John's phone stopped buzzing.

The network guru finally looked up at John. "Why didn't you just ask?"

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