Sunday, November 30, 2008

Lenovo Theft Security

The new Lenovo Thinkpad has a mobile broadband modem, and if stolen, you can send the laptop a text message which will lock the machine down (in theory).

I would have to research more on how this works, but I feel there are likely a few problems:
  1. You need a way to contact your laptop fairly quickly, though many people who would own a Thinkpad likely have intertube access on their phone. This, however, would require the owner to pre-enter the contact information into their phone or other computer. Knowing you can contact your computer does not help if you don't know how to contact it.
  2. It is likely that the laptop must be turned on for the lockdown to occur. Network wakeup is a bit of a power hog. Perhaps this machine has an extra cellphone-type battery for the modem?
  3. There are many ways to compromise computer security. From bootable Linux installations, password crackers, or simply reinstalling an operating system, the system can be made usable.
  4. As far as stealing data goes, if this is your business, you know how to pull a hard drive, hook it up to a external case, and mount it on another machine.

While I feel that superficially this is an excellent idea, there would be many items that would be necessary. Hopefully, the lockdown would disable the motherboard, but this still does not truly protect hard drive information. Users are notoriously bad about keeping information handy except where? You guessed it, on their computers. Lenovo would hopefully have a quick call-in customer service center that could perform the lock down for you after you provide the proper verification of who you are. This would require registering this information, which could be part of initial setup. If it has Bluetooth, they could have the laptop send the Lenovo information to your mobile phone (even the laptop's lockdown info).

The best thing to do, is of course physical security of a laptop. Get one of those lockdown cables if you go out with it. These seem a bit flimsy, and given time and tools, they can be removed, but that is the point. Anyone trying to pry your laptop free while you are getting another coffee at Starbucks is going to draw attention. These cables keep people from simply walking away with your machine in a public place. (example)

As far as data goes. Don't keep any sensitive information on the laptop. 4GB thumbdrives are quite cheap these days. Use one of them. Personally, I don't put my name in MS Office, or anywhere else on my computers, which is a network safety measure as well. Now, with the thumbdrive, obviously, you can't keep it with the laptop.

A good mix of physical security and data security is always your best bet.

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