An Atrocious Crime

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR

Years ago, working on a company's proprietary computer system, I discovered something troubling.  I found unencrypted data containing information used to control the way the system worked.  I realized users could alter this unsecured data and do some real damage.  System developers could also alter it, but I knew that might be useful for testing purposes.

In reality, the likelihood of a system user altering the data was negligible and I had other pressing issues with the system.  So rather than undertake the time consuming task of a complete fix, I made sure the data was in a secure location.  Then, just to make sure, I changed the system so it could tell if someone had tampered with it.  If so, the system would spit out the most ominous error message I ever wrote:

For the record, it says: 

"This message will appear only to system developers. If you are a system user viewing this message, you are guilty of an atrocious crime: that of tinkering around with the system's internal settings.  Woe be unto you. Do not even think of calling technical support for assistance in getting rid of this message."

If I don't miss my guess, readers of this blog will recognize much of that language.

To my knowledge, no user ever got that warning; however, a system developer who later worked there did get it.  He found it confusing.

So mote it be.


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33°, is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft, is available on

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