Laid Off Guy Hides Undetected in Company Slack

The remote work era means companies are completely reliant on chat and communication apps. Slack and Microsoft Teams are the two big companies in this space. To me, Teams still feels like a terrible 'homework copying' by Microsoft to clone Slack but I'm not here to rant about that. What I'm here to write is how Gizmodo writer Tom McKay, laid off in 2022, was able to stay on the company's Slack instance for months undetected. How? By pretending to be the built-in Slackbot that is part of every instance. Emma Roth at The Verge has more.

When it was his time to leave, McKay swapped out his existing profile picture for one that resembled an angrier version of Slackbot’s actual icon. He also changed his name to “Slackbot.” You can’t just change your name on Slack to “Slackbot,” by the way, as the service will tell you that name’s already been taken. It does work if you use a special character that resembles one of the letters inside Slackbot, though, such as replacing “o” with the Unicode character “о.”

The move camouflaged McKay’s active Slack account for months, letting his account evade deletion. It also allowed him to send bot-like messages to his colleagues such as, “Slackbot fact of the day: Hi, I’m Slackbot! That’s a fact. Have a Slack-ly day!” My colleague Victoria Song, who previously worked at Gizmodo, isn’t all that surprised that this situation unfolded, and says, “As Tom’s former coworker and a G/O Media survivor, this tracks.”

The Verge

If you've never used Slack, the Slackbot is a lightweight assistant built into the service. You can chat with it to give you reminders later on, set alarms, save information, and basically help you out with minimal tasks as needed.

What's crazier to me is how McKay was able to successfully hide and remain hidden from management for months. The ability to change a username shouldn't be enough to evade detection. Every Slack user is tied to an email address and in my experience, is your work email. If someone is being let go, deactivating someone in Slack should be handled by the email address on the account. Now, it's possible McKay changed his email too (I'm unsure if you can even do that in a paid / corporate Slack).

But as one person on Mastodon said: tell me you don't have an off boarding checklist without telling me you don't have an off boarding checklist.

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