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Jedi Master
Picture of Paul
posted
This tip doesn't necessarily pertain to just Macs, but good for any laptop.

The company I work for has recently purchased 75 of the new HP 10.1" Mini laptops. The sales reps use these when visiting clients. Unfortunately, one of them was stolen several weeks ago.

One day last week, I got a strange call from someone claiming to be an HP tech. He said he had a computer repair person on the other line that had a laptop that was registered to our company and he then asked to speak with my boss (I used his name when I registered the laptops with HP). I told him I was the Systems Admin, so if he wanted any information he would have to speak with me. I then asked him the Serial number of the unit in question and sure enough, it was the stolen unit! I told him this and I asked if I could speak with the tech on the other line. He said he couldn't do that but he did give me his name and a number to reach him. Of course, the phone number didn't pan out.

I began to wonder, why on God's green earth would someone steal a laptop and then call HP? Then I remembered that when I setup the laptops, I gave each of them a BIOS password. Without entering the BIOS password the operating system won't even boot up. Most likely what happened is the thief couldn't log into the laptop, so this person took it to a computer repair shop/person with a story of "Oh... I forgot my password!" Well, BIOS passwords are not easy to break. You either need a backdoor password, of you need to take the laptop apart in order to reset the BIOS. The tech must have called HP asking for help on resetting the password and perhaps to seek who the laptop was registered to.

I had also put a tamper resistant asset ID tag on each laptop. The tag lists our company name as well as a phone number to call in case the lap-top is found. As you may have guessed, the thief had removed this tag, but it is tamper resistant. It leaves clear markings when removed to let anyone looking at the laptop know that an ID was there, but tampered with. I'm sure the tech noticed this as well.

Well it turns out the a the tech did the honest thing and turned the laptop into the Police. It's now back with us where it belongs. So I have learned a few lessons here...

1: If you have a laptop that supports a BIOS password, SET IT! I don't think there is a way to do this with Mac laptops, but most WinTel based laptops should have an option for this.

2: REGISTER THE THING with the manufacturer. They can't know it's really yours unless you tell them before hand.

3: If you can, affix an asset ID tag to the unit. Even if the thief tears the thing off, it's rather difficult to hide the fact that it was once there and it alerts others that it's most likely a stolen unit. I use the DuraGuard Property Identification tags from SETON. Their number is 1-800-243-6624

Hope this helps!


========================
Ignorance breeds fear and fear breeds stupidity. Knowledge is the key to overcoming your fears

The only fish in a stream that just "go with the flow" are the dead ones
 
Posts: 1415 | Location: Clawson, MI USA | Registered: July 25, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Guru
Picture of Jack Beckman
AIM: Online Status For jcbeckman@mac.com
posted Hide Post
You have been able to set a firmware password in Macs for some time now. This article explains how.


===
Professor Hubert Farnsworth: “Nothing is impossible. Not if you can imagine it. That’s what being a scientist is all about.”
Cubert J. Farnsworth: “No, that’s what being a magical elf is all about.”

 
Posts: 5469 | Location: Sterling Heights, Mi | Registered: January 25, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Jedi Master
Picture of Paul
posted Hide Post
Cool! Thanks Jack!

I figured it should be possible, but I never even looked into the matter.


========================
Ignorance breeds fear and fear breeds stupidity. Knowledge is the key to overcoming your fears

The only fish in a stream that just "go with the flow" are the dead ones
 
Posts: 1415 | Location: Clawson, MI USA | Registered: July 25, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Guru
Picture of Jack Beckman
AIM: Online Status For jcbeckman@mac.com
posted Hide Post
Good to see your defensive measures worked! You've got a good set of rules listed for anyone to follow.

Just one reminder - DO NOT forget your password! As noted, you need a visit to a tech to open up your machine if you do.


===
Professor Hubert Farnsworth: “Nothing is impossible. Not if you can imagine it. That’s what being a scientist is all about.”
Cubert J. Farnsworth: “No, that’s what being a magical elf is all about.”

 
Posts: 5469 | Location: Sterling Heights, Mi | Registered: January 25, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Poobah
Picture of Mary Jo Disler
posted Hide Post
Does the firmware password then become THE pw for the computer? Or is it only used for some kind of special access? Not quite clear on how it is different.


"For what is age but youth's full bloom,
A riper, more transcendent youth" - Oliver Wendell Holmes
 
Posts: 2066 | Location: West Bloomfield MI USA | Registered: June 13, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Jedi Master
Picture of Paul
posted Hide Post
On a Linux/Windows PC, if you have a BIOS password set, the laptop won't even begin loading the Operating system until the password is entered. This is good, for the simple fact that that password is always there - Even if they try swapping out the HD. Granted, they can put your HD into another computer and gain access to you data that way, but as I stated above, it's a pain in the rump and most thieves just aren't willing to put up that much effort. It also prevents them from using your particular laptop.

On the Mac side, If I understand correctly from what I read on the article Jack posted, the open firmware password is good to use, but not quite as effective as a BIOS password. It seems it does prevent others from performing certain tasks, but it looks like they are still able to log into the computer itself. Although, every little measure helps.

To answer your question.. NO, you still need your account password as well.


========================
Ignorance breeds fear and fear breeds stupidity. Knowledge is the key to overcoming your fears

The only fish in a stream that just "go with the flow" are the dead ones
 
Posts: 1415 | Location: Clawson, MI USA | Registered: July 25, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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