nobody uses a locked laptop

I've had a small obsession lately of watching DEFCON videos from years past on YouTube when I get a free moment. It's mostly been good aside from making me paranoid to use my computer. Mostly these guys and gals bring up great ideas for protecting yourself from Ahem..."Adversaries" with things like drive encryption, rapid drive destruction, secure communication, strong passwords, long keys, etc. All these are great things! They keep unauthorized users far from your data and I wouldn't advocate against them.

Here is the particular video that inspires this post:

"Pwned By the owner: What happens when you steal a hackers computer". Although he commits a cardinal error in leaving his data totally open and unprotected, it's ultimately this oversight which allows him to retrieve his computer, much later and in one piece. Had he employed full disk encryption, the thieves wouldn't have been able to use the computer and thus would have hocked it or formatted the disk. That's what they never tell you about disk encryption (perhaps because it's obvious), but nothing stops an adversary from wiping the disk. If the perp seeks to profit from your gear, not your data, you're out of luck.

This got me thinking about how I would go about a similar recovery of some boxes that I own, and I realized that if my equipment ever got lifted, I'd never get it back. BIOS passwords and FDE are brick walls when it comes to locating my devices on a strange network. However, I like the privacy and protection of FDE and I wanted the best of both worlds.

So I repartitioned my hard drive. Main part is CS/Filevault 2, secondary is just plain HFS.

Now when a thief walks off with my computer, they'll need my long, secure password to open my main part. BUT, if the computer is restarted, it will boot to a pretty default OS X Lion desktop and allow the user to pretty much use my laptop to their hearts content.

This is good, because they will not realize that there is actually a kernel keylogger, ddns client, and remote access trojan just watching and waiting (and taking pictures). Many people swiping laptops are morons, and will use them to access email accounts, facebook, and perhaps even online banking. I have a lot more confidence that in the unfortunate event of personal theft, not only will I be able to track and identify the perp, but I might get a good DEFCON story out of it as well.

tags: technical