I was minding my business towards the end of the work-day, working on matching some policies between commissions and our CRM, when my supervisor commented that we nearly didn’t have work today. My curiosity was piqued, so he and I ended up chatting a bit more, and what transpired was that our building had been the source of a great mystery, and one of the criminal kind. As someone who happens to be a fan of true crime and noir and mystery novels, this definitely intrigued me, so I will attempt to recount for you the facts of the case and provide some of our reasonable surmises about what happened as best as we are able.
Saturday morning at about 5:30AM or so, all of our servers went down. What happened was that someone had managed to pry open a door into a room containing the telecommunications equipment the building uses as far as phone lines and internet is concerned, and wires were cut and boxes stolen. During the course of the weekend, repair and replacement was done until about 5:30PM or so yesterday, when things were finally repaired to the point where we could have work today. Those are the bare facts of the matter, and yet those facts only prompt a variety of questions, not least because there was no key swipe (not that one would work at that time in the morning for any but the highest level executives), and so it is likely that an exterior door was forced that did not require entry into the building through normal means.
It would appear as if the motive of this was sabotage, and most likely it was done by an angry current (or former) employee who had enough knowledge of the patterns of the building to attack when there would be no one around, and to seek to prevent work rather than make money. Given the cutting of wires and the sabotage of the phone and internet, it appears as if some sort of destruction of our office’s working capabilities was intended. Clearly, for someone to be awake and ready to sabotage at 5:30AM, there has to be some level of planning and foresight. Given the size of the boxes involved, it is possible that more than one person was involved, particularly if it is thought that speed might be an issue–although the time that was chosen may have made that aspect less vital, particularly if there was no camera or audible alarm that would make the person think that they were being watched or that someone would be coming quickly.
It seems unlikely, at this point, that the motive was theft in order to make a profit. After all, the destruction of wires would indicate a motive of sabotage rather than theft. In addition to this, even with the theft of large modem boxes of some kind, it would be unlikely that there would be a great resale market for stolen industrial telecommunications equipment. One could hardly sell it for parts, and no pawn shop is going to offer any money for that kind of obviously stolen good. Furthermore, it is not as if one can put such a thing on ebay or craigslist, as that would be a fast way to ensure the attention of appropriate police authorities. And it is not as if anyone wants to buy dodgy equipment of that kind for an office building anyway. So we are left with a likely motivation of destruction motivated by some kind of hostility towards the company that owns the building, namely the one I work for.
This motive is, unfortunately, all too easy to understand. Turnover happens to be high where I work, and many divisions within the company operate according to a model that has a small number of permanent employees and a large number of seasonal temporary agents and other employees who are hired for a short period of a couple of months to be trained, receive their licenses, and earn as much as possible through answering phone calls and responding to web leads to sell some sort of insurance product. In some cases, this was done with pay that was considerably delayed from the time the sale was made. This sort of situation, where there is unstable and often short employment and a widespread perception that there was a reluctance to pay people what they deserved, is tailor-made for people who are vengeful and highly motivated to strike back at a company they believe wronged them. Such a scenario is very plausible, and demonstrates the vulnerability that companies face when it comes to damage from those who perceive that they have been damaged themselves.
It is unclear whether this mystery will be solved. Although a plausible explanation of the events is easy to make, and some credit given to the skill of the person involved, it is not clear if this plausible explanation is in fact the true story, and whether the person or people involved will be found and brought to justice. Nor is it clear whether this sort of event is a rare one or whether the way that a company deals with such matters can mitigate the risks involved. I am not sure how often this happens, but I would suspect that a great many companies have to struggle from time to time from sabotage inflicted by former employees and corporate rivals. Indeed, some people may view such efforts as the attempt to work out some sort of rough and informal justice, and that makes situations like this all the more problematic in a world where people feel that justice is denied to them otherwise.