Stolen Server (or, not such a nice "welcome back to work" omen)

So, I’m posting this first post after our European vacation (which was quite nice, by the way) at 3:30/4:30 in the morning because a) I’m all confused as to what time it actually should be (I think about 10 pm?), and, more importantly, b) I’m upset because, sometime between Friday (or so) and Monday, someone broke into my office, clipped the security cable on the Mac Mini that was on my desk, and walked away with our server. Apparently, there were some other computers stolen in the building, too.

Nice, huh?

Now, I am upset for all sorts of obvious reasons. We (meaning not just me but other folks in the writing program) had a chunk of teaching, scholarly, and administrative-type work on that computer. It was nothing I would describe as “irreplaceable,” but it was still a lot of work that we aren’t likely to ever get back. And I (“we,” if I count my other tech-geek colleagues who have been using ther server) hadn’t gotten around to backing the server up yet, in large part because we hadn’t gotten to the stage of things of figuring out just how and what to back up yet.

In the end, we will get a computer/server back in place to replace this one. This will ultimately be a blip on our use of a server in the department. But what bothers me most I think is how this exemplifies how completely piss-poor security is in the building where I work and how the institution seems unable/unwilling to do anything about it. The fact of the matter is this is not the first computer to go walking, nor is it the first one to go walking out of a locked faculty member’s office.

And what pisses me off about this is that the attitude around EMU seems to be “well, these things happen.” and doesn’t seem to do anything about it.

Now, I haven’t been to school yet to hear what the arguments/excuses are about all this, but I guess the first thing campus “security” would say is that there are lots of different people who have keys to these rooms: former employees, janitors, current employees, etc.. Fair enough, and I also understand that there are many somewhat random, “crimes of opportunity” that take place in Pray-Harrold. I know that laptops and wallets and other things have been stolen out of offices– which is why I never ever leave my office door unlocked or open, even when I go to get something from the main office, and why I would never ever leave my laptop in my office overnight.

So sure, with a building as big and as open as Pray-Harrold, things are going to occassionally turn up missing. But this was no random theft. Someone had to specifically know that in my office on that particular spot on my desk was a computer that they could tuck discreetly away in a bag. I mean, it’s a little computer; it’s not easy to notice. Further, the cable was (apparently– I’ll see it later today) cut, which suggests to me a high degree of planning. In other words, since I am guessing that the thief is not someone reading this blog or another faculty member in the English department, I would argue that someone knew exactly what they were doing, meaning that the person who took this computer had to be someone who had regular and easy access to my office at night.

(And btw, if the thief is reading this blog and steal this computer, please do me a favor and give it back. Just put it back in there the same way you got it out; no questions asked.)

To me, the obvious suspects are the janitors. I’m not saying that that’s who did it, but you’d think that’d be the first person to ask at least. If nothing else, it would give you some names of people who were in/had access to the room at the time the computer was stolen. That is, if campus “security” were to actually do any sort of investigation about this sort of thing. God forbid.

But what is potentially more problematic to me is if it really is was what would be called a random act, a just one of those shrug-of-the-shoulders kinds of things. If that’s the case, what can I “just leave” in my office and not worry about? My desktop computer was right next to the server that was stolen; what would have prevented them from taking two computers? I realize that most breaking-and-entering sorts of people are unlikely to be interested in my books on rhetorical theory or technology, let alone my extensive snowglobe collection and other miscellaneous items that give my office, er, “personality.” But what’s to stop someone from coming in there and just trashing the place on a lark?

In other words, if leaving official school property (e.g., a computer chained to a desk) in a locked faculty office isn’t safe, then what can I leave in there? And why the hell isn’t it safe?

Jeesh. I’ll try to go back to sleep for a while. And then once school gets going, I guess I’ll have to think/rethink what to leave at school and what to leave at home.

4 thoughts on “Stolen Server (or, not such a nice "welcome back to work" omen)”

  1. I’m sorry that happened to you and your colleagues. What a crappy thing. One question: was there actual “breaking” and entering? In other words, did someone force your door, or use a key?

    I ask because I’m coming from a situation completely opposite from what you describe: to get into West Point, there are two ID checks with armed security guards, metal road barriers, and tire spikes, and today I just completed my first 24-hour shift as English Department Staff Duty Officer. (The duty falls on junior faculty and comes around maybe once a month or so.) At noon yesterday, I signed for the keys to all the department offices; at 5 PM, I conducted a physical inventory and made sure that everything that needed to be locked was locked; at 7 AM this morning, I unlocked everything and did an inventory again, and at noon today, I signed the keys over to the faculty member who was next on the Staff Duty Officer roster. We have an appointed key control officer who keeps track of who has each key. For me, it felt burdensome, but it’s also a welcome alternative to the frustration you describe.

  2. Well, that’s the Army for you… ;-)

    First off, there was no forced entry– someone had a key, and/or someone had left the door unlocked for the thief. Second, it would appear that the person who did the taking actually did so on Monday morning, which strikes me as an especially ballsy move. And again, this person had a cable cutters and knew what it was they were looking for.

    There is apparently an investigation with campus security underway, but I don’t know yet what these folks are really doing with it. I might try to contact them today or tomorrow.

    In any event, we’re not likely th have anything approaching the kind of security you have at West Point for obvious reasons. I can’t imagine the “Staff Duty Officer” model at a place like EMU. And you got to keep in mind that about 9,000 people a day are in and out of the building where I work during the school year, so setting up very sophisticated security schemes is probably out of the question.

    But clearly, VERY clearly, EMU could do a lot more than they do.

    For my own peace of mind/security/curiosity, I think I am going to try to set up a webcam in my office. That might be kinda interesting….

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