Unhackable Netbooks given to students

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Where would be the best place to test out an unhackable netbook? The NSW department of education in Australia thinks that college is perfect . They plan on distributing netbooks, preloaded with Windows 7,and iTunes. They also have bios level tracking and security, allowing them to be remotely shut down on command. With 20,000 of these in circulation, we would think that we’ll see someone proving the “unhackable” statement wrong. We can only hope.

[via slashdot]

284 thoughts on “Unhackable Netbooks given to students

  1. Do you hear that?
    thats the sounds of thousands of keylogger, portscanners, and sniffers booting up at the hands of hackers which are eager to prove that there is nothing “unhackable”, especially when it is marketed as such.

  2. They can make it unhackable, but that won’t stop us from hacking it. Hackius has a point, getting an unhackable netbook is like buying a car that only goes 30mph.

  3. @nnx
    Listen, its going to take more than “script kiddie” type of hacking to get past these things. A simple keylogger is not going to do a darn thing. Im sorry, but a real hacking attempt on such a device requires much more than what you have suggested.

  4. Hack resistant, maybe.

    There’s always a way. It will have to be tamperproof with an exploding dye pack, but that will only mean that someone won’t mind having blue skin for two weeks.

  5. I have a relative with one of these laptops, they’ve actually started distributing them throughout highschools too. They’re trackable via GSM/GPS, and apparently “any modification will cause the laptop to shut down and cease to function” (his words)

    I’ve yet to take a closer look at it, but it makes you wonder what kind of hacks are “detectable” leading to shutdown. For example, if I was to take it to my basement that has no GSM or GPS penetration, would they be stupid enough to embed a routine that shuts the laptop down when both signals are absent?

    If not, wouldn’t it be as easy as removing the ceramic GSM/GPS antennas from the PCB to stop any GSM control / GPS fixes from occurring? (this works with the GM862/GE863 modules from TELIT for example, undetectable by the modules firmware, they just think and report no signal when antennas are detached)

  6. Wouldn’t it be easier to just get your own netbook? I mean this really isn’t what hackaday is about, but bringing your own netbook might be a lot faster and easier than hacking around the BIOS level security. Maybe I’m just lazy…

  7. Would it not be as easy as disconnecting from the internet, finding a way around the bios password lock, and flash a new one? I wish I could get my hands on one of these..

  8. so…bios eh? take it apart,sold of the flash, reflash it with a compatible one (beacuse netbook ara all the same under the hood) and resold it…after wipe 7 and put debian :D

  9. I would just refuse to use such a pain in the ass laptop. I mean, laptops with that kind limited power are widely available and cheap. So why bother using (and being financially responsible for any damages) something that is going to possibly be spying on you and brick itself if it things your hacking it?

  10. It would be pretty funny if you could uninstall the tracker through Windows Device Manager.

    I doubt that would be the case, but it would be hilarious.

  11. If it is GSM or GPS tagged then theoretically shouldn’t you be able to “clone” the ESN or IMEI and redirect the signal to a “dummy” device while you play to your hearts content? Just a thought……

  12. You would have to make a seriously useless piece of crap for it to ever be “unhackable”. And by that I mean it literally discourages hackers by its absolute uselessness. I mean, you wouldn’t even consider it worthy of being a paper weight!!

  13. They’ve actually already got past the restrictions, apparently. A few choice liveCD tools that alter the BIOS along with removing the CMOS battery and a little soldering has taken care of it. Don’t really know the details, it’s just hearsay

  14. The gov.au seems to have some really funny ideas about how people should be able to use tech. resources. Filtering the internet for the whole country, “unhackable” systems? Hah. I can even deal with living in the voyeuristic UK, so long as I’m not living in invisible handcuffs.

  15. @daler, ethics my good man ethics… oops that’s WHY we do it.

    big ups to the first guy to boot *nix on one and call tech support about the new ‘problem’

  16. I think that the point here is that the netbooks are ‘unhackable’ (or hack resistant) to OUTSIDE interference. Of course, if you have physical possession of a device, nothing is unhackable, eventually. As a method to prevent the unauthorized release of personal or proprietary information, this may work well enough to make it not worth your while.

  17. Unhackable? Feeling safe with an unhackable computer like feeling safe in a bulletproof vest. All is fine until someone decides to do some target practice with a .50 heavy machinegun.

    Please, never call something unhackable. At the most call it hacking resistant, and back up your claim with proof that indeed has some inherent safety that prevents it from being hacked easily.

  18. Unhackable…pleh…the firmware on the BIOS will be force flashed once someone gets a working ROM of it and decompiles it’s security measures. Unhackable? We will see about that, and I highly doubt they closed off the BIOS physically b/c with Win7 and new Firmware for the chipset they will definitely have “secure” bios flashing updated..pleh..,so many things wrong with that “unhackable” statement it really does bother me.

  19. i live in australia. this is stupid. it seems the aussie goverment doesn’t know jack about computers and IT. i mean, just look up about that crazy wireless ineternet thing they were gonna do to the outback.

    “unhackable” maybe to the government they are

  20. Physically accessible machines are never unhackable. Short or block out the antennas for wifi and GPS, and you’ve already half thwarted all their efforts.

    I don’t really see the point of the laptops. How are kids going to learn how to use computers well if we only let them use certain applications and go to certain websites? Maybe for art or English it would be fine, but some kids want to learn OUTSIDE of their classes. 2 GB of RAM, wasted.

  21. The writer seems to really bum Microsoft in the gob. The way he goes on about TCO, and how it’s full of lots of software that is ‘woth’ loads of money but actually cost nothing near that makes it look like another MS sponsored get the kids on crack, I mean Windows while they are young campaign.

    I’m willing to bet Brett Winterford won’t run a follow-up article once this has been shown to be a massive failure.

    On the plus side it is promoting some ingenuity on the part of the students to thwart it, so thats got to be a good thing.

  22. @emuboy: I was just about to suggest that. With the recent posts on flashing netbook bioses, it ought to be as simple as removing the bios and flashing it with the consumer bios version.

  23. Nice method to test out your security… its a brilliant move, why spend millions testing the thing in house? Send it to the wolves, then after a year or so, they can say its real world tried and tested hack proof. I agree that nothing is unhackable, just takes the right mind.

  24. what happens when Adobe, MSoffice Itunes or windows7 has a security flaw and gets a virus, does the thing brick and I lose all my school work? I guess modern day “dog ate my home work”

  25. My first instinct is to RF Shield it and try playing.

    I’m not an expert by any means, but I really bet that with a few hours behind some brass screen, I could have that book doing my bidding like I’d brought it on board the mothership and probed it.

  26. This, is from the same great continent that brought the $80 Million AUD netfilter that could be disabled simply by ending the process.

    All you people underestimate Australia’s public tech know-how. The GSM/GPS is probably to prevent theft, and all those stoner kids losing it somewhere in there weed-shed; The ‘BIOS Level Security’ is probably just a (simple) generic BIOS password; and the ‘Shut down’ features are probably a remote administration tool that could be cut off at a decent firewall.

    Stop thinking like hackers think, and start thinking like the ‘Tech-sperts’ that are just A+ certified $40k / year government-types.

  27. Shield it, disconnect, short to ground (to defeat batteries) then open it up get lots of shots online and then remove the usable parts, CPU/RAM/case/etcetera to use normally.
    Any leftovers you put in an envelope in a mailbox at the ministry of information extraction, or what have you.

  28. fragged is probably right, they aren’t designing this to be hack proof to US, it’s just for people who freak out and call geeksquad when they get the BSOD.

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