Deep Dive Into A Prison Laptop

The phenomenon of prison electronics is by now relatively well-documented, with striking transparent radios, televisions, and kin easy to recognize. Yet what about prison laptops? As it turns out, these are a thing as well, and [Zephray Wenting] got one from eBay to investigate, as documented over at Twitter (ThreadReader single page). Much like their audiovisual brethren, these laptops lack basic features in the name of prison security, which in the case of this laptop means for example no USB ports. Even the spacebar stabilizer rod is missing. Weaponized keyboards are apparently a thing in corrections facilities.

The Justice Tech Solutions Securebook 5. (Credit: Zephray Wenting)
The Justice Tech Solutions Securebook 5. (Credit: Zephray Wenting)

Called the Justice Tech Solutions Securebook 5, it has been superseded by the Securebook 6. Inside this earlier unit, you’ll find an Intel N3450 with 4 GB LPDDR3, with SATA for storage and a special dock connector. Some laptops come with WiFi hardware installed, others are unpopulated. It appears that these Securebooks by default have a BIOS password that cannot be erased, even by removing it from the NVRAM (‘CMOS’), as it’ll return on the next boot due to an automatic BIOS reset. This was temporarily bypassed through a hacky external SPI Flash adapter, but the reward for all this trouble was a BIOS setup screen with just the ‘Security’ tab.

It’s now been sleuthed out that the default password is N%(dU32p as reported by Hackaday’s own [Adam Fabio] on Twitter. It turns out the password was available on a (now private) YouTube video. [Techknight] on Twitter has delved into EFI BIOS hacking. He has an alternate BIOS image that does provide access to the full BIOS setup utility. With BIOS access not being necessary to boot the system, the question that [Zephray] went ahead with was how to boot it into an OS since the original HDD or SSD had been removed prior to being sold. The bad news here is that it turned out that the system has a HDD whitelist (which [Sark] found a way to bypass). The good news is that someone has probed the system before, with the storage device being reported as ‘China SATA3 240GB SSD’.

Rather than mess with this, it was attempted to boot from USB, by tapping into the USB lines for the touchpad, which turned out to allow booting into a live image of Ubuntu without fuss. As an ongoing project, it’ll be interesting to see what more functionality can be wrung out of this piece of prison kit, all hopefully from the right side of the prison bars.

Thanks to [livelaughliang] for the tip.