OLPC Adds Anti-Theft Kill-Switch to XO Laptops

Dennis Faas's picture

The One Laptop Per Child XO laptops will now include an anti-theft kill-switch to deter thieves from selling the low priced machines for a hefty profit in the black market. (Source: arstechnica.com)

The decision to add the kill-switch stems from requests from the OLPC project's main clients: governments. OLPC Director of Security Architecture Ivan Krstic wrote last month that "the OLPC project has received very strong requests from certain countries considering joining the program to provide a powerful anti-theft service that would act as a theft deterrent against most thieves." (Source: arstechnica.com)

Here's how it works: a country sets a specific lease time for the laptops. When the laptop is booted up, an anti-theft process calls the country's home OLPC server once a day. When a laptop is stolen, its serial number is entered into the centralized server. The next time the Internet is connected to the laptop, the laptop will be forced to do a hard shut-down and essentially lock out the user. (Source: tgdaily.com)

Unfortunately, this process does not stop a thief from gutting the laptop. However, OLPC has soldered the valuable parts of the XO laptops to the motherboard, making them difficult to remove. (Source: tgdaily.com)

While it is undeniable that the laptops are strong candidates for high sales on the black market, it is also equally likely that people will try to crack the system to cash in on the potential windfall. It still remains to be seen, however, whether the kill-switch will indeed prove to be a satisfactory deterrent. (Source: arstechnica.com)

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