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I had installed Vuze, which was software for torrenting video files. It sat on my computer for a while, because there just wasn't much I wanted that badly. I DLd one movie in that time, that was on my Netflix list but I hadn't wanted to wait to see. A few weeks after that, I found a TV show that I wanted to catch up with, it was up to episode 6 of the current season, so the beginning of the season episodes weren't available at the broadcaster's website any more. So I decided to torrent them.

I don't have a lot of experience with torrenting or the how the software works. The first file I went for was the wrong one, but I didn't realize that. It was a big file (I didn't pay THAT much attention to it, really). So I started downloading it late in the afternoon, and thought "well I'll leave this running overnight so it's not much of a burden on the system".

That morning when I got in, I had a call from our network person saying HE had had a call from the upper level IT folks telling him that my computer had a lot of traffic going from it to someplace in Australia, and maybe I had a virus. I was puzzled at first, I told him I'd downloaded a big file but I didn't know what could be going out and maybe something -was- wrong. So I poked around a bit, and realized in the process that people were downloading the file I'd downloaded. I hadn't really realized that would be happening while I left my computer on all night. I immediately turned it off, told our network guy what happened, and was fairly embarrassed about it, and resolved to not do any torrenting again, if I couldn't even handle the software properly.

I got a fair amount of razzing at the IT holiday party, and I was pretty abashed. It was a stupid mistake, really.

If I'd picked up my mail on the Wednesday before Christmas, I'd have had a letter from HR informing me I was being investigated for inappropriate computer use and internet misconduct. Fortunately I didn't this incredibly unpleasant, terrifying letter until the Sunday after Christmas, so it couldn't ruin my holiday. As it was, it ruined me for several days. I was -very- stressed about it, to say the least. I wasn't permitted to speak about the details of what was going on during the investigation, under pain of being fired for trying to influence an investigation. Which just added stress.

When I came in to work that Monday, my computer had been taken in for forensics investigation to see what else might be inappropriate on it, and replaced by a machine that only had Microsoft Office on it, and nothing else. I'm a software developer. I don't just use my computer for Word and Email. I have tons of development notes, documents, and software that you can't just recreate on a new machine. This was a major issue for me. They had my computer for 23 days before I got it back. I was constantly running into things I simply could NOT do because I needed what was on my computer to do it. What was worse no one could give me a specific timeline for when I'd get it back, so I couldn't know it was going to take 23 days to get it back. If I'd known that in advance, I could have done a little more set up on the system I was given than I'd done, but I kept thinking "it's just a couple of days, I'll work on this other thing until then".

Anyway, I had to have an investigation meeting with the HR person for our agency, and I had a union rep there with me. They asked me a series of very specific, scripted questions about the use policy, and what I'd used my computer for in relation to the software in question, and did I realize that having a P2P program on my computer was a violation of the policy, etc. They recorded this interview. I had been told by the union guy to be scrupulously honest in my answers because while the violation itself probably wasn't significant enough to warrant my being dismissed, lying during the interview was grounds for dismissal, and they would, very likely, fire me if they found me lying. That was scary as hell because my memory has been so bad lately, I was worried if they'd be able to tell the difference between lying and just genuinely forgetting something.

Fortunately I didn't have much problem with the questions. There were some questions about the dates things happened and I was muddy on that, and also if I'd really downloaded much. I knew I hadn't done much but I couldn't remember specific dates, etc.

Anyway, the investigation was concluded and the report was submitted to the main HR department a week after that interview. Then I had to wait another week and three days before I got my final disciplinary meeting.

THAT was a relief. I have a memo signed by my boss's boss reprimanding me for inappropriate internet use and file storage and directing me to remove the software the moment I get my computer back (I already had my computer back for a couple hours by that point). I told them the software was already gone. I confirmed that the memo would be in my file, and was told it'd be there for two years, then removed and forgotten. That was also huge relief to me. I thought it'd be there forever.

My boss and his boss both felt that this was way overblown. I'd already realized my mistake, and had already resolved not to do this again. The chiding of my colleagues was pretty embarrassing as it was, and even just my boss saying "Don't do that again" would have been plenty.

But I understand why they had to go through the procedure they went through. I understand why the big IT folks couldn't just let this slide, and something had to be done, and there's only this one procedure available. The only real complaint I had was how long it all took to finally get resolved. I mean, I -did- violate the policy, and I did make a stupid mistake. I don't quibble with that much.

But the letters… oh my god the letters they send out. You start questioning your integrity. Everything races through your head "What have I done, did I go somewhere bad? What's on my computer?" Even though I -knew- that there wasn't anything there, I started imagining there was, or worrying that I'd mistakenly copied some things that would be entirely inappropriate for work, that normally reside on my thumb drive, onto my hard drive, completely by mistake, then how would I explain THAT. I also was irked at how long all this took to be resolved. Three weeks and a bit is a long time. I get that there were holidays in there, but, man, that was a lot of lost productivity for me, and a lot of stress and worry. I'm not good at letting go of that.

I hadn't done anything like that miscopying any files (I've double checked ;D now that my computer is back). But the stark terror, and the possibility of losing my job (before I'd been reassured this wasn't a firing offense), is enough to make sure I don't ever have to go through something like that again.

So anyway, that's the story.

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morgannalefey

April 2010

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