Aussie Gov't Puts Win7 Security up to 'Ultimate' Test

Dennis Faas's picture

Over the next four years, Australia's New South Wales region will be dolling out 240,000 Lenovo laptops. The goal is to give every high school student a computer by 2012 -- and protecting that many computers has become a matter of top priority.

Machines Use RFID and Tracking

The machines will be equipped with Windows 7 and Microsoft Office, and thanks to bulk pricing, will cost no more than $500 each.

To keep costs down, officials have arranged for the machines to be customized with a range of security measures. As well as password protection, there's also tracking software and an RFID chip inside the machine which means they can still be identified as school property "even if they were dropped in a bathtub." (Source:

If a machine is reported lost or stolen, officials can remotely disable it. The tools for doing so are built directly into the laptop, meaning a thief couldn't use it even if they replaced the hard drive and reinstalled Windows.

Rigorous Filtering, Remote Upgrades

There are also several measures to control which sites students visit. Each machine includes filtering software that works on any Internet connection, whether using the school wireless network, wireless at home, or a physical connection. The list of blocked sites varies according to the age of the child, but includes social networking services MySpace and Facebook.

Around 6% of all sites are blocked, including YouTube, which is only available on machines designated for teachers. There's also a block on anonymous proxy servers which can be used to get around some web restrictions.

The system also uses Windows 7's Applocker feature to control which applications students are able to install. The machines can be remotely upgraded and patched (rather than relying on the student to do so), which will be done until they graduate. At this stage the child gets to keep the computer.

Low Theft Rate

The early signs are promising: of the 19,000 laptops which were distributed in the initial test period of the scheme, just six have been reported lost or stolen. Officials have made it clear that if a student does lose a machine, they will get a replacement of the same model, even if a newer version has come along in the meantime. (Source:

It'll be interesting to see whether the low theft rate continues as the scheme expands. If so, the project could serve as a useful test model for how large businesses can equip their staff with computers while minimizing security risks.

| Tags:
Rate this article: 
No votes yet