'Bob’ was a model employee – until an audit found someone in Shenyang doing his work
Amy Li and The Guardian
A US-based software engineer shocked his bosses and inspired some of his industry peers by outsourcing his job to a company in China for less than one-fifth of his six-figure American salary.
The 40-year-old, whose identity was reported only as "Bob", was at one stage awarded the company's "best developer in the building award" for maintaining a work schedule that in reality consisted mainly of taking long breaks, chatting on Facebook and shopping on eBay.
Bob's fraud was discovered after his employer turned to US telecom services provider Verizon for "help in understanding some anomalous activity that they were witnessing in their VPN [virtual private network] logs", Andrew Valentine, a senior investigator, wrote on his website.
The US company had begun to allow its software developers to work from home occasionally and had set up "a fairly standard VPN concentrator" to facilitate remote access, Valentine wrote.
When its IT security department started monitoring logs being generated at the VPN, "what they found startled and surprised them: an open and active VPN connection from Shenyang ", he said.
"Plainly stated, the VPN logs showed him logged in from China, yet the employee is right there, sitting at his desk, staring into his monitor."
Valentine described Bob as a "family man, inoffensive and quiet. Someone you wouldn't look twice at in an elevator."
But an examination of his workstation revealed hundreds of PDF invoices from a third party in Shenyang. "Bob spent less than one-fifth of his six-figure salary for a Chinese [consulting] firm to do his job for him."
Based on his web-browsing history, a typical "workday" for Bob was: arrive at 9am and surf Reddit or watch cat videos for a couple of hours; take lunch at 11.30am; go on eBay at 1pm; view Facebook updates and LinkedIn at around 2pm; send an update e-mail to management at 4.40pm; and go home at 5pm.
The evidence even suggested he had the same scam going across multiple firms in the area.
"Quarter after quarter, his performance review noted him as the best developer in the building," wrote Valentine.
The story triggered heated debate when it was translated and posted on China's social network sites, including Sina Weibo.
"Learn English and let's find work in US," read one of 1,600 comments on Sina Weibo. "Why do we have to do the dirty work for such a cheap price in China?"
Valentine did not disclose the identity of Bob's ex-employer. Many Weibo users speculated that Shenyang-based Neusoft was the most likely provider.