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Cellular Repo Man

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the new-low-for-crippleware dept.

Portables 253

LateNiteTV sends in news of a "kill pill" from LM Ericsson AB that a wireless carrier could use to remotely disable a subsidized netbook if the customer doesn't pay the monthly bill or cancels their credit card. "...the Swedish company that makes many of the modems that go into laptops announced Tuesday that its new modem will deal with [the nonpayment] issue by including a feature that's virtually a wireless repo man. If the carrier has the stomach to do so, it can send a signal that completely disables the computer, making it impossible to turn on. ... Laptop makers that use Ericsson modules include LG Electronics Inc., Dell Inc., Toshiba Corp., and Lenovo." The feature could also be used to lock thieves out of the data on a stolen laptop.

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Used car salesmen use the same thing (5, Insightful)

DrMrLordX (559371) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409439)

We have had several used car lots around here that will basically do the same thing: if you don't make your weekly or monthly payments, they send a signal to a device attached to the starter and the car won't start.

At least with the car, eventually you pay it off so that little cloud is no longer hanging over your head unless some idiot at the lot mistakes you for being in non-payment and kills your starter. With one of these notebooks, you'll always have that threat looming that your notebook will shut down if someone steals your only CC and you have to cancel it or what not at the wrong time in the billing cycle.

One would hope nobody involved would be so draconian but you never know.

bullshit (-1, Flamebait)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409503)

A device attached to your started by people that sell used cars? Apart from the questionable legality, there's the expense (that'd take a cell connection with a monthly charge, or a big ol' broadcast tower), and the fact that anyone could go to their mechanic and have it removed.

Try harder.

Re:bullshit (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27409589)

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123794137545832713.html

It's real.

Re:bullshit (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27409633)

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123794137545832713.html

It's real.

So are "a href" tags.

Re:bullshit (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27409951)

Fuck, if you can manage "a href" tags, I would think you could handle a simple copy/paste

I stand corrected (4, Insightful)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409681)

Never underestimate the depths of motherfuckertude people will sink to in order to get that dollar.

Re:I stand corrected (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409701)

what's wrong with people selling a car wanting to get paid? it's not like the people getting one of those units have a good repayment history. these are people who would otherwise not get a loan at all.

Re:I stand corrected (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27410073)

Devil's advocate here:

Usually I see cars outfitted with these devices (either remotely disabled, or requiring the car's driver to enter a PIN every week to month until payments are done) sold by used car dealers who are dealing with people with frighteningly bad credit histories.

I do not like the devices either, but if it means someone is able to purchase a vehicle to drive to work and back (who otherwise would be turned away due to poor credit) to keep a job, that is one less indigent off the tax rolls.

Re:bullshit (1)

Wiredin (1520589) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409615)

A cell tower or anything like that is not required. When dealing with most tote-your-note type lots they have a device that you enter a code in so that it wont deactivate the car. This code is received each time the customer makes payment

Compare to LoJack (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#27410179)

Apart from the questionable legality, there's the expense (that'd take a cell connection with a monthly charge, or a big ol' broadcast tower)

I'd imagine that insurance companies pay for a chunk of it. Some major auto insurance companies already give a discount to the owner of a car equipped with a LoJack device [lojack.com] .

Re:Used car salesmen use the same thing (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27410375)

I have no problems with this as long as there are SEVERE penalties for the used car people for mistakenly shutting off a car on an account that is paid up to date.

In my state, preventing use of legally owned property (like an automobile) is a felony and carries the same penalty as theft of that property. If the used car people can shut someone's car off and then say "sorry we made a mistake" and get away with it and not go to prison then I would have MAJOR issues with this practice.

Re:Used car salesmen use the same thing (2, Interesting)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410399)

In my state, preventing use of legally owned property (like an automobile) is a felony

I don't know which satet that is, but I'm guessing that until a large proportion (if not all) of it has been paid off it is "legally owned" indeed - by the finance company.

Re:Used car salesmen use the same thing (4, Informative)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410811)

Apparently you are unaware of the concept of a loan. When you buy a car, do you have the title and registration? When you buy a house, and have a mortgage, you have the deed, not the bank.

Sure the bank or lender makes you sign a contract guaranteeing them the right to repossess the object if you fail to honor the payment agreement, but pretty key in that sentence is the word REpossess. They pass possession to you. Now it may also be that the property is the security on the loan, but again, security is a pretty specific concept in law. If the lender owns your property, they can sell it or dispose of it at any time, apropos of anything else. They don't. They retain the contractual right to reposess, claim or lien the security until you satisfy your debt. That is not the same thing.

Re:Used car salesmen use the same thing (1)

thebear05 (916315) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410427)

the legal owner of the car would be who is shutting it off ? right ?

Re:Used car salesmen use the same thing (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410393)

With one of these notebooks, you'll always have that threat looming that your notebook will shut down if someone steals your only CC and you have to cancel it or what not at the wrong time in the billing cycle.

I would assume that there would be a grace period, and that they'd try to contact you fist. That's just good business sense. Even the mafia won't off-you if you're 5 minutes late on your payments - they'll send someone around to have a chat with you, first.

Re:Used car salesmen use the same thing (5, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410539)

that's just good business sense. Even the mafia won't off-you if you're 5 minutes late on your payments

As someone who just became five minutes late on my 'protection' money, I can attest to th

Re:Used car salesmen use the same thing (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410537)

Much like the car starter, this "kill chip" can and will be circumvented.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the kind of people who default on small payment are often the same kind of people who hang out with shady people. What? Did you think deadbeats lived in caves ?

Stolen Laptop, yes. Data, No. (4, Insightful)

wed128 (722152) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409443)

A theif could easily take out the hard drive and read it using another device, no? you are locking a theif out of a laptop, not the data within.

Re:Stolen Laptop, yes. Data, No. (4, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409523)

...But you assume that most thieves actually know something about computers. A lot couldn't care less about the data, they just want to sell the nice hardware. Sure, some actually know a thing about computers, but your typical thief doesn't really care about the HD, they just want to sell it to a pawn shop or a streetcorner for some quick cash.

semtex (2, Funny)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409541)

Presumably, these new netbooks also have a strangely oily layer of orange material inside attached to the remote kill switch.

So whatever you do, don't cut the red wire.

Re:semtex (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409581)

So whatever you do, don't cut the red wire.

RED wire? no don't cut it.

shunt it to ground with a 2k resistor.

Re:Stolen Laptop, yes. Data, No. (3, Informative)

LoRdTAW (99712) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409663)

Most thefts aren't data thefts or other espionage related thefts. I would wager most notebook (and other electronic gadget) thefts are for profit thefts. A thief will swipe you laptop and try to hock it at a pawn shop or other crooked store that fronts stolen goods. Too many people start thinking "James Bond" without thinking in a more real world sense. Sure there are espionage related thefts but most electronic gadgetry thefts are by desperate individuals looking for fast cash. And those thieves are often junkies looking for a fix and will steal anything of value to get it.

Besides the article is talking about disabling notebooks that are subsidized by wireless broadband plans in which the customer stops paying for. Not stolen notebooks.

Re:Stolen Laptop, yes. Data, No. (4, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410415)

True, but then the people they fence them to might be a bit more clued up and/or have connections.

Re:Stolen Laptop, yes. Data, No. (1)

VinylRecords (1292374) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409687)

A theif could easily take out the hard drive and read it using another device, no? you are locking a theif out of a laptop, not the data within.

You could design a proprietary drive that only functions within that laptop and should anyone remove the drive there would be a fail safe that erases the data or locks the data until it is reattached to the original laptop.

Not sure if the technology is possible for something like this (I'm a comedy writer for a living, no technical experience) but I'm sure you could prevent people from accessing a drive somehow.

Re:Stolen Laptop, yes. Data, No. (3, Insightful)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409721)

wouldn't it be easier to encrypt the drive and have the wireless kill system hold the key?

Re:Stolen Laptop, yes. Data, No. (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409795)

You could design a proprietary drive that only functions within that laptop

That's a lot of R&D to put into proprietary interfaces when whole-disk encryption with off-the-shelf components is a lot easier to deploy.

Compare to Xbox 360 hard drives (2, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410219)

That's a lot of R&D to put into proprietary interfaces when whole-disk encryption with off-the-shelf components is a lot easier to deploy.

Yet Microsoft put the R&D into the Xbox 360 game console's proprietary hard drive interface.

Re:Compare to Xbox 360 hard drives (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410351)

Yet Microsoft put the R&D into the Xbox 360 game console's proprietary hard drive interface.

Microsoft is Microsoft. A rent-to-own company is not Microsoft.

Re:Compare to Xbox 360 hard drives (1)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410419)

No, they're a "buy it and use it the way we tell you, you own nothing" company. Otherwise they wouldn't have EULAs on all their software and hardware.

Re:Compare to Xbox 360 hard drives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27410525)

Name a single piece of software that doesn't have an EULA.

Just by the fact that the software is copyrighted, there is, by definition, and End User License Agreement.

Re:Compare to Xbox 360 hard drives (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410699)

Name a single piece of software that doesn't have an EULA.

GNU Emacs. The use of free software is governed by copyright statute, including 17 USC 117 and foreign counterparts that authorize the owner of a lawfully made copy of a computer program to load it into RAM. Licenses affect only the distribution of free software.

Re:Stolen Laptop, yes. Data, No. (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 4 years ago | (#27410151)

Bitlocker does exactly this, assuming the laptop has a TPM chip. Once enabled and the recovery key saved somewhere secure, the laptop boots, grabs the volume key from the TPM and goes about its business without needing a password. Should the drive be yanked and read from another machine, it will be encrypted and useless without the recovery key.

Re:Stolen Laptop, yes. Data, No. (-1, Offtopic)

supernova_hq (1014429) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410339)

Should the drive be yanked and read from another machine, it's data will be encrypted and useless without the recovery key.

There, fixed that for you.

Re:Stolen Laptop, yes. Data, No. (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410437)

it is data will be encrypted?

I think that in actual fact you fucked it for him.

Re:Stolen Laptop, yes. Data, No. (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410267)

Just make sure you provide a copy of the crypto key to the legitimate owner in case the motherboard fails outright.... That would really suck to lose all your data merely because your motherboard blew a couple of filter caps.

Data Thief? ... More likely after the laptop part. (2, Informative)

Walpurgiss (723989) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409473)

If a thief were really after your data, it'd be pretty trivial to remove the hard drive from the laptop, and just have to worry about encryption.

This feature won't help protect your data really, just make laptop itself a paperweight.

Re:Data Thief? ... More likely after the laptop pa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27409765)

And encryption is always effective. http://xkcd.com/538/ [xkcd.com]

Re:Data Thief? ... More likely after the laptop pa (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410467)

In your rush to sell your karma pussy on the street corner of moderation you appear to have confused "thief" and "kidnapper", you bastard imbecuntcile.

Here's a better idea (5, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409477)

Don't sell hardware by tying it to a subscription! You want to provide financing, fine. But stop trying to convince people that a $500 computer should be free, but it makes sense to spend $100/month for a communications link.

Re:Here's a better idea (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409621)

Just curious... why? It seems to be what the market demands.

Don't get me wrong - I would jump at the chance to get a non-subsidized phone/data plan, but I am more angry at the ignorant masses than at the companies fulfilling their desires.

Re:Here's a better idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27409719)

What do you think I've been wanting here in the USA? A SIM-only cell phone plan. Like Vodafone.

Re:Here's a better idea (1)

novakyu (636495) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409937)

What do you think I've been wanting here in the USA? A SIM-only cell phone plan. Like Vodafone.

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "SIM-only cell phone plan", but there are pay-as-you-go plans from major wireless carriers, like T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon (although Verizon's "pay-as-you-go" is just subscription on daily installment, since you pay daily "access fee" even on days you don't use your phone).

And you don't have to get a new cell phone when you get the SIM cards for these services, so if you have an unlocked cell phone or one that works with the carrier, you just go to the dealership and get the SIM card.

Granted, this is far less convenient than some places overseas, where you can just buy SIM cards at newspaper stands (and I don't think I should have to pay $10+ just for the SIM card, as I did when I got it from T-Mobile), but if you plan on using the same SIM card for a reasonable length of time, like most normal people, it's a minor inconvenience.

Re:Here's a better idea (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 4 years ago | (#27410087)

Morality always trumps "what the market demands" for me.

I can't control other people, but I wouldn't run a business like this simply because it seems wrong.

Re:Here's a better idea (3, Insightful)

internewt (640704) | more than 4 years ago | (#27410129)

Just curious... why? It seems to be what the market demands.

Don't get me wrong - I would jump at the chance to get a non-subsidized phone/data plan, but I am more angry at the ignorant masses than at the companies fulfilling their desires.

In markets like mobile telecoms there are only a few big players, so the market gets offered what the players want to offer, not necessarily what the customers want. Obviously collusion is illegal, but "singing from the same hymn sheet" isn't.

The utter cluelessness of most customers when it comes to computers and tech in general doesn't help much either. I guess this could be viewed as "what the market demands" though.

I'm sure it's a bit of both, plus some more.

Re:Here's a better idea (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410423)

In markets like mobile telecoms there are only a few big players

I'd agree except that - unless my memory is playing tricks on me - the subsidized phones started way back when there were dozens of carriers serving various regions of the US. It took off not because of carrier greed, but because consumers were more willing to sign up with little initial outlay.

Re:Here's a better idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27409665)

just do like cell phone companies and add a termination fee. sure you would have alot of pissed off customers but that's only if you didn't allow paying for hte device in full without contract...

Re:Here's a better idea (1)

cml4524 (1520403) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409807)

If they just walk away from paying the plan, why wouldn't they just walk away from paying the term fee?

Re:Here's a better idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27409809)

The guarenteed revenue stream that a contract has helps reduce the cost of doing business (the customer aquisition cost can be defrayed over more payments).

This is why when your contract runs out you get offers for free phones in the mail from your carrier. They WANT you to get a free phone, rather that risk you leaving at any point. And this while you are paying "too much" monthly. Look at how expensive pay as you go plans are. Contracts reduce rates.

Re:Here's a better idea (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27410139)

Pay as you go plans are the price leaders in Germany. You get the cheapest per minute prices with plans that have no minimum contract term. Upfront costs are typically less than $10 for the SIM card and often count towards your balance. You can still get subsidized phones with pre- and post-payment plans, but the minutes are considerably more expensive and the phone is almost always locked to the SIM card.

It shouldn't come as a surprise: Customers will more easily switch to a cheaper competitor if they're not tied to a two year contract, so pay as you go plans must be much more price oriented to keep people from leaving. (It also helps competition that you can keep your phone number when you switch to a competitor.)

Re:Here's a better idea (1)

causality (777677) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410593)

The guarenteed revenue stream that a contract has helps reduce the cost of doing business (the customer aquisition cost can be defrayed over more payments).

This is why when your contract runs out you get offers for free phones in the mail from your carrier. They WANT you to get a free phone, rather that risk you leaving at any point. And this while you are paying "too much" monthly. Look at how expensive pay as you go plans are. Contracts reduce rates.

I have an alternative view on what would reduce rates. It's simple, too.

Make all mobile phones able to interoperate with all of the national cellular networks. Make the cellular companies' FCC licenses depend on fully publishing their protocols/etc. as open standards if necessary. The idea here is that you can independently buy any phone you like from the vendor of your choice and then use it on any network you like. Then get rid of all contracts and make the carriers adopt month-to-month plans. You pay for one month of service; at the end of that month, you can decide not to buy more service or to switch to another carrier with no penalties whatsoever and no need to obtain a different phone. Then let the carriers compete on price, coverage, and service.

I would expect much bitching and moaning from the carriers, but that's too bad. Their current system is a way to avoid having to be very competitive. That's the only reason why they lock customers into 2-year contracts and it's the only reason why they artificially restrict phones. That's certainly in their interests but it is not in ours. Currently the game is played according to their rules.

I think we forget sometimes that this happens only because we accept it. There are few or no products or services that we need so badly that we should accept someone else's dominance in order to have them. If you really value freedom, then you know that this price is too high. Certainly it should not be the norm that almost every telco wants you to do this. Somehow humanity lived without cellular phones for a very long time (though many seem to have forgotten this) so I don't consider them an exception to this rule.

I see that valuing our toys and conveniences more than our freedom and independence makes us, as a whole, rather easy to push around. It's not usually recognized as the weakness that it is. That's a shame. We really need to decide whether the interests of artificial constructs such as corporations are more or less important than the interests of individual human beings. Once we decide that, we can take positions that are consistent with that decision. In this case, that's especially true considering that most (all?) of the telcos are government-protected monopolies that were set up to serve a public interest in the first place. I won't debate whether that was the best arrangement. I only observe that requiring them to do business in a less self-serving manner is consistent with that arrangement.

Re:Here's a better idea (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409969)

I don't think they really expect this to take off very much. They're just preparing for a few years down the road when a netbook capable of running Windows XP or Linux with all the bells and whistles will debut for something like $60-100, and probably start to replace the old-style cellphones in a lot of data plans.

Re:Here's a better idea (1)

Tanman (90298) | more than 4 years ago | (#27410103)

Why should they stop trying to convince people that $60/mo makes sense? Fact is that after the computer is paid, people will still be paying $60 a month. After owning the computer and internet access for 4 years, not only have they recouped the price of the system, but they've recouped it twice over.

Computer: $400
Internet Access $30/mo (normally)

At $60/mo, the phone company needs 14 months to repay the price of the computer (which, by the way, is probably tax deductible as a business expense anyway since it's 'free' with the service). Everything after that is cash money.

Re:Here's a better idea (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410243)

Computer: $400
Internet Access $30/mo (normally)

Where? In Fort Wayne, Indiana, United States, a normal data-only plan from Centennial or AT&T or Verizon without a ridiculously low cap (e.g. 0.1 GB/mo) costs $60 per month.

Re:Here's a better idea (1)

supernova_hq (1014429) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410369)

Wow, sucks to be you...

It's not nearly that bad in Canada. [www.shaw.ca]

Re:Here's a better idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27410581)

Canada is a very big place, and there are parts of Canada where it sucks to live... although I'd need some convincing that any of those places suck as bad as Ft. Wayne Indiana. If I were stuck someplace like that, I'm quite sure every dime and every bit of energy I had would be applied toward getting the hell out of there.

Re:Here's a better idea (0, Troll)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410453)

Sucks to be you. You can get a decent ADSL line here for as low as $20 per month.

Re:Here's a better idea (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410673)

Is it wireless?

Context is oh so much fun.

Re:Here's a better idea (1)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 4 years ago | (#27410157)

So the solution is for you to buy a computer that fits your needs (subscription-free) and people who want a subsidized computer to buy one with their data plan. I fail to see the issue here unless you'll no longer be able to order a laptop without a subscription.

Rogue Wireless Carrier SysAdmin (4, Funny)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409517)

How much fun will it be when the wireless carrier fires Crazy Stu, the wacky UNIX sysadmin with the penchant for conspiracy theories and bad dental health.

When HR comes around to fire Stu, he leaves his timebomb in place. The one that fires out the kill message to hundreds - nay - thousands of customers - and disables their leased laptops all at once.

What a day that will be.

Re:Rogue Wireless Carrier SysAdmin (4, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409821)

How much fun will it be when the wireless carrier fires Crazy Stu, the wacky UNIX sysadmin with the penchant for conspiracy theories and bad dental health. When HR comes around to fire Stu, he leaves his timebomb in place. The one that fires out the kill message to hundreds - nay - thousands of customers - and disables their leased laptops all at once. What a day that will be.

I hope it does not come to that, but should that happen anyway, in a way I would be grateful. It is unfortunate that things like that often have to happen before people are willing to question whether what they were doing was a good idea. My opinion is that anything which is needlessly centralized and open to this sort of vulnerability is a bad idea, especially when there are already established ways to deal with the problem this intends to solve. I consider the likelihood of such an exploit occurring to be irrelevant; there would be no such possibility at all if this were the correct solution.

We are talking about financers and lenders, or those who do something similar by using long-term contracts to subsidize what would otherwise be an up-front cost. It's a form of credit because it takes time to become profitable and it depends on the other party not defaulting. If such people want to extend credit to those who are bad risks, that is the original problem and an improved "repo man" does nothing to solve it. It only addresses the symptoms of the original problem.

For people who default on a loan or a contract, this pseudo-solution is essentially an alternative to taking them to court. It means that the lender can just remotely disable the equipment that was not paid for without having to use any sort of due process. It is thus an extra-legal power that did not previously exist, and is rightfully called a power grab. The entire point of the court system is that both sides can make their case. If the money required to bring a lawsuit against a large corporation already makes this difficult for the average person to pursue, taking the courts entirely out of the equation makes it impossible. This is not a good precedent. If this catches on, it will become increasingly difficult to buy a cell phone or perhaps a laptop without agreeing to allow it.

It's amazing to me that we will do almost anything, come up with nearly any clever solution, go to any effort, to avoid directly addressing the actual cause of our problems. It's as though we feel threatened by the prospect, or inadequate at having failed to realize its simplicity. This is why we live in a superficial society. This is also why there are so many bad precedents which seem inevitable although they did not need to be that way at all.

Re:Rogue Wireless Carrier SysAdmin (1)

FoxconnGuy (997669) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410777)

If people shoot at students and teachers in a campus and kill themselves in the end, it would be nicer if they kills thousands of computers and the owners can spend some time with their families.

Re:Rogue Wireless Carrier SysAdmin (1)

causality (777677) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410819)

If people shoot at students and teachers in a campus and kill themselves in the end, it would be nicer if they kills thousands of computers and the owners can spend some time with their families.

I seem to have missed your point. If that relates to what I was discussing, may I ask you to explain how?

Re:Rogue Wireless Carrier SysAdmin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27409975)

I'm not crazy, and how the F@#% do you know my name? You're from the government, aren't you? AREN'T YOU?

Re:Rogue Wireless Carrier SysAdmin (2, Funny)

Wrath0fb0b (302444) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409985)

When HR comes around to fire Stu, he leaves his timebomb in place. The one that fires out the kill message to hundreds - nay - thousands of customers - and disables their leased laptops all at once.

Later that day, the company sues Stu for malicious destruction of property, lost business revenue, failure to fulfill a duty of care (remember, employees are actually expect to work for their employer, not against them). A few hours later, an injunction will issue requiring Stu to return the computer network to the state before he left pending further hearings. Stu will either comply or face escalating sanctions and then jail time until he complies with the court order (which the company is entitled to as a matter of black letter law).

The company will apologize profusely, give everyone a free week of service (maybe a month, depending on how the PR department sees this) and charge it off as a one-time freak expense. Finally, it will be posted on /. as a dupe of http://news.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/07/18/2349242 [slashdot.org] .

Re:Rogue Wireless Carrier SysAdmin (2, Funny)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 4 years ago | (#27410155)

Unfortunately, by the time Stu has run his timebomb, Stu has also had fractions of a cent transferred to a bank account in the Caymans and is now living somewhere in the Bahamas under the pseudonym Leonard Stumonias, Esquire.

Re:Rogue Wireless Carrier SysAdmin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27410803)

You assume of course that Stu is not clever enough to cover his tracks. The difficulty of doing that will of course depend on the level of auditing and monitoring going on in his (ex)workplace, so going by most I have seen it should not be too hard. Actually he may not even need to run software on a central server...it may be that if he sends the right IP message to each laptop on the right port, knowing the right codes to send, that he could shut them down remotely from some Internet cafe. Or from some convenient botnet.

Working in a support role in a telecoms company, I can say that the most damaging thing would not be to shut the whole lot down at once. Just shut down a random selection each day, enough to swamp the support staff with calls. Shutting them all down would get fixed quite quickly, but a smaller number will not make it so obvious what the root cause is. This is similar to the way that a bug that stops the code altogether will get found and fixed quite quickly, whereas one that just occasionally manifests itself will be much harder to find and so over a period of time may well cost a lot more.

Of course, the other danger for Stu is that some nasty bug manifests itself shortly after he left, without him having taken any malicious action at all. With some of the crappy stuff I have seen, that is not too improbable. Imagine trying to prove that you did not in fact leave some malicious code somewhere. Yes, you are innocent until proven guilty, good luck with that.

He won't bother to write or phone you... (2, Funny)

JimXugle (921609) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409565)

He'll just rip the still beating heart from your chest!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMP2dvGFUlk&fmt=18 [youtube.com]

Re:He won't bother to write or phone you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27409735)

Just pray he never comes knocking at your door!

great feature ... for /everyone/! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27409567)

The feature could also be used to lock one's enemies out of the data on their laptops.

The feature could also be used to lock O[b,s]ama out of the data on his laptop.

The feature could also be used to lock YOU out of the data on YOUR laptop.

Re:great feature ... for /everyone/! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27409631)

The feature could also be used to lock O[b,s]ama out of the data on his laptop.

Yeah because they're really going to want to inform him that they found his laptop.

Re:great feature ... for /everyone/! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27409661)

except that, as has already been pointed out, no data is locked.
Just because a computer doesn't boot does not mean that any data is inaccessible.

Great malware target (1)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409627)

This would make a great prank malware target. But the days of fun malware seem to be over, it's all about the Benjamins now...

Re:Great malware target (2, Interesting)

Nitage (1010087) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409739)

That's definitely something criminals could exploit - knock out 1 in 1000 laptops, then "pay us $X thousand dollars, or all the laptops you gave away brick". A physical DOS attack. Think how much that could cost a company in terms of reputation and lost buisness, not to mention the inevitable lawsuits. For that reason alone I think this is an amazingly stupid idea.

I predict (4, Insightful)

taustin (171655) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409677)

that within 5 minutes of the sale of the first such laptop, there will be 1,080,456 web sites with detailed, step by step instructions (with screen shots) on how to disable the feature, and at least ten times as many with instructions on how to physically remove the wireless moden.

And ten seconds after that, every single one of them will be slashdotted.

Re:I predict (3, Interesting)

cstdenis (1118589) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409941)

And another 5 minutes later there will be instructions on how to send the kill signal to any laptop. Have fun bricking the laptops of anyone you don't like.

Re:I predict (2, Interesting)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410457)

"Have fun bricking the laptops of anyone you don't like."

It's the only thing I thought about when I read the summary. The target isn't "bricking the laptops", it's permanently destroying that company's reputation. Their competitors are as motivated to crack this as anybody else.

Re:I predict (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410349)

And people offering that service for a fee, as they did with PS1/2 chips.

how precsiely will it work? (2, Interesting)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409731)

I'm not sure I'm clear on how they want this to work. Is it purely software or will the thing physically interrupt the power supply or will it do something to the BIOS? There's weaknesses and vulnerabilities to all three. Depending on how they do it, you could disable any software solution they use or just boot to Knoppix off a DVD and keep surfing the web and doing whatever :-) And if it's a hardware interrupt, crack it open and get out the soldering iron or hack saw. Or just take out the stupid part that's doing it!

Great. ANOTHER list... (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409733)

The list of companies to NOT do business with continues to grow.

Speak with your dollars, refuse to purchase devices from companies that have these modems installed, and these companies will no longer install them. Simple as that.

The next step is legislation that PRECLUDES companies from disabling purchased products, IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM. Simply put, command-destruct/self-destruct functions should be illegal in ANY product. Legislation wouldn't be needed if everyone KNEW what these asshole companies do, but that is not going to happen since they(the manufacturers/sellers) will ALWAYS try to hide the fact of "limited ownership" until after purchase(and even after)

Re:Great. ANOTHER list... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27409877)

It's not purchased if it's being subsidized as part of a MONTHLY CHARGE THAT YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR PAYING FOR.

Once again, an undeserved sense of entitlement from a Slashdotter! It's yours when the contract is over. That's what you signed. Deal with it.

Re:Great. ANOTHER list... (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409963)

And what happens after the required "lease" runs out?

If you read the article, you would have noticed that after 2 years, the purchaser is FREE of any obligation to anyone(subsidizers), but the company with the kill switch STILL has the ability to push it.

"Once again, an undeserved sense of entitlement from a Slashdotter! It's yours when the contract is over. That's what you signed. Deal with it."

It isn't YOURS if someone can take it from you on a whim.

Re:Great. ANOTHER list... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27410021)

That's unproven speculation. You don't know how this will play out, and you don't know whether or not this "kill switch" will be disabled after your lease.

This place is so full of "WHAT IF?!?!?!" paranoia, and yet NONE OF IT EVER HAPPENS IN PRACTICE. NOT. EVER. Haven't any of you realized this by now?

Re:Great. ANOTHER list... (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 4 years ago | (#27410059)

That's what "they" told us about cell phones, yet when I go to another company for service, I am informed that the phone I purchased from my previous provider is UNUSABLE on other networks...YEARS after I purchased it.

So, I call bullshit.

Re:Great. ANOTHER list... (2, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410331)

when I go to another company for service, I am informed that the phone I purchased from my previous provider is UNUSABLE on other networks...YEARS after I purchased it.

In the United States, this might be true because Verizon and Sprint use a Qualcomm CDMA stack, while AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM. Besides, contracts in the United States seldom guarantee the customer's right to remove the subsidy lock from the phone once the contract is over.

Re:Great. ANOTHER list... (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410715)

"In the United States, this might be true because Verizon and Sprint use a Qualcomm CDMA stack, while AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM. Besides, contracts in the United States seldom guarantee the customer's right to remove the subsidy lock from the phone once the contract is over."

That's all fine and dandy, had I been told such a "lock" was in place, permanently. Only problem was that I wasn't told(and yes, I looked at the contract I signed...tried for 2 years to get out of it). As a matter of fact, the clerk that sold me the service responded with "Of course!" when I specifically asked about taking my phone to another service after my contract ran out.

I now use that same cellphone to RECORD such conversations. One has to do what one has to do when they intentionally mis-bill you in order to renew your contract when you ask for a paper copy of the bill(considered an "added" service...which renews your contract).

Re:Great. ANOTHER list... (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410309)

And what happens after the required "lease" runs out?

New contracts eliminate the purchase portion of the lease-purchase agreement, stating that the hardware is not the customer's when the contract runs out. Instead, the customer returns the hardware to the cell phone company for a refund on his deposit.

Re:Great. ANOTHER list... (1)

Gible (526142) | more than 4 years ago | (#27410107)

Yeah, but your monthly charges don't drop at the end of your contract do they?

Nor can you get a discounted plan for paying up front for the whole cost.

A Slam-Dunk Prediction (5, Insightful)

sehlat (180760) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409787)

The RIAA/MPAA will be requiring such a capability as part of any "three-strikes" legislation. That will include felony charges for tampering with the hardware that makes the kill switch possible.

911? (4, Informative)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 4 years ago | (#27409873)

I was under the impression that all cell phones are required to be able to make 911 calls

Re:911? (2, Informative)

tagno25 (1518033) | more than 4 years ago | (#27410069)

These are NOT cell phones, they are netbooks with cellular data connections.

VoIP 911 (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410355)

These are NOT cell phones, they are netbooks with cellular data connections.

Then wouldn't all low-cost subnotebooks with cellular data connections be required to be able to make 911 calls over SIP?

Re:911? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#27410187)

Doesn't apply to a laptop.

Stupid theives maybe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27409889)

Except a thief could always remove a hard disk and put it in another computer if they really want the data on the computer.

I should feel outraged, but I'm more YDI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27410213)

If you buy a netbook that acts like a cell phone, I think you deserve all the lockdown bullshit that comes with them.

Just don't buy the damn things.

A Malware Writer's Dream! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27410289)

So - let me get this straight... a remote command that can disable anyone's hardware?
And you thought worms like conficker were bad?
Way to go Ericsson!

They better have used some heavy duty digital signatures or something...

Re:A Malware Writer's Dream! (1)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410477)

It sounds almost as wonderful as allowing websites to take control of and install software on your computer with Active X, with or without the user's knowledge or consent! Wonderful innovation coming from the minds of our mercantile masters!

MiniPCI (1)

chill (34294) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410557)

On the Dell Mini 9 I opened the other day to add RAM, the 3G modem was a miniPCI card.

1. Buy subsidized netbook.
2. Remove miniPCI card modem
3. Cancel credit card
4. Resell netbook at markup.
5. Profit!

A few more steps than the Gnomes, but it works.

abused (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410725)

Yeah because some pimple-faced kid isn't going to get bored and start killing peoples netbooks for fun.

This is an early April Fools day joke right ?

fri[st s7op (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27410739)

(7000+1400+700)*4 O0treach are

The Black Hat community is grinning Ear to Ear... (1)

MightyBot (1288352) | more than 5 years ago | (#27410751)

Can't wait to see what havoc a script kiddie can cause in Starbucks when he effectively locks half the crowd out of their netbooks...

I also wonder if an individual or corporation could sue Ericsson for lost profits if a disgruntled telco employee shuts everyone's netbooks off.
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