Linux laptop vendor uses a very surprising hack to protect your privacy

Several years ago, it was revealed that the US National Security Agency (NSA) will sometimes intercept networking gear during shipping in order to modify it to provide backdoor access to the hardware. To get around this, one company has devised a clever hack to ensure that its laptops arrive to customers without being tampered with.

Just six months ago, the social purpose company Purism decided to formalize its anti-interdiction services so that they appeared as a drop-down choice as opposed to being a “hidden menu item” that was difficult to find. The laptop and smartphone maker is one of if not the only hardware vendor that offers a complete suite of custom anti-interdiction measures to prevent its devices from being tampered with during shipping.

What exactly are these anti-interdiction measures? Well for starters, Purism applies glitter nail polish to all of the screws on the bottom of its Librem 13 and Librem 15 laptops so that users will know if someone took the device apart after it was shipped. The company also ships its laptops with customized tamper-evident tape on a bag surrounding the device and its box. It will even send pictures of the laptop measures it performed over encrypted email to customers.

Purism also offers a PureBoot Bundle to detect firmware or OS tampering with a custom pin. This option includes the company’s Librem Key which is a USB security key to make encryption, key management, and tamper detection convenient and secure. For customers that want additional security, Purism will even ship the Librem Key and laptop separately to different addresses to make interdiction even harder.

Anti-interdection services

When Purism first formally announced that it would offer anti-interdiction services to its customers, the company expected it to be a fringe upgrade that only a small number of people would opt for. However, many customers looking for additional security decided to upgrade to its anti-interdiction services.

While some people decided to choose the service because they are in a high threat situation, others just want the peace of mind that comes with knowing their laptop won’t be tampered with in transit without their knowledge.

Of the anti-interdiction measures Purism offers, its glitter nail polish is very popular and customers choose to have it put on either the center screw or all of the screws of their new laptops.

In a blog post, chief security officer at Purism, Kyle Rankin reflected on the success of the company’s anti-interdiction services, saying:

“Six months on I would have to say that the anti-interdiction service has been a success. We have processed far more orders than I initially thought and for a very diverse range of customers. Now that the process has become more streamlined we should be able to complete future anti-interdiction orders even more quickly and are looking for other ways we can make it even faster. We have also expanded anti-interdiction services beyond laptops and adapted it to Librem Server, Librem Mini, Librem 5 and Librem 5 USA.” 

Via CNX Software

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