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Question: BIOS based passwords for Laptops to protect data

Old 04-22-04, 12:47 PM
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ngp
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Question: BIOS based passwords for Laptops to protect data

We are evaluating the use of BIOS based bootup passwords on our T series IBM laptops. While this may not be a perfect solution and certainly other preventions will be cosidered, how feasible is it for us to implement a general password on all of our laptops to protect the data if they are stolen?

I understand that many BIOS based passwords can be reset by a shorting mechanism on the motherboard but I've heard that IBM ranks pretty well against that. Also, this would deter the average thief from accessing data or unless they had some greater knowledge on bypassing the password protection.

Anyone have any thoughts, experiences, advice, etc.?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 04-22-04, 03:21 PM
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Personally, I don't think a whole lot of BIOS passwords. They will provide some protection for your data, but most (probably all) can be broken or bypassed. Of course, the "average thief" doesn't want your data anyway... they want your hardware. And a BIOS password won't do anything to stop them from stealing your laptop. OTOH, if it is someone really wanting to steal your data, the password will likely slow them down but not stop them.
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Old 04-22-04, 03:22 PM
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Doesn't IBM have hard disk password/encryption?

I've heard that is very effective, even when the drive is moved to another computer.
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Old 04-22-04, 09:15 PM
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Originally posted by X
Doesn't IBM have hard disk password/encryption?

I've heard that is very effective, even when the drive is moved to another computer.
They do have that and that's also one of the thing being considered. I just didn't know if the BIOS password was worth the effort and inconvenience to the end-user or not.
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Old 04-22-04, 09:27 PM
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If it's a tradeoff of inconveniencing users with too many passwords versus real security I think I'd opt for the drive password with an OS login.
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Old 04-22-04, 10:03 PM
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I have a 3.5" floppy which contains a program to crack BIOS passwords. I stole it from my freshman year roomate after he used it sucessfully to brake into my computer. I'm not sure how it works, but I can upload the disk data if you want to try it against your BIOS password protection.
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Old 04-23-04, 08:20 AM
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BIOS passwords are worthless for security purposes, one can just pop the HDD into another notebook and boot up. As has been recommended already, use a software based drive-encrypting solution.
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Old 04-25-04, 08:11 AM
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Originally posted by AGuyNamedMike
BIOS passwords are worthless for security purposes, one can just pop the HDD into another notebook and boot up. As has been recommended already, use a software based drive-encrypting solution.
Actually, one of the neat things on the IBM laptops now is that you can't simply change the chasis to get around the BIOS password....but you're right that in most cases, that does bypass it.
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Old 04-25-04, 09:50 AM
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BIOS passwords are good for securing the machine - but not the data. As noted, on most systems, accessing the data is a simple matter of swapping the HD into a new machine.

Two recommendations:

1) The filesystem built into Windows XP, 2003, etc. allow for a key-based encrypted volume. Just do some research on "Encrypted File System." Your IT center should be extraordinarily careful about keeping a central store of the encryption key of every machine, in case someone loses/deletes the key.

2) I do recommend BIOS passwords for securing the machine in the event of theft. It's not worthless, but it's not as easy to hack as most think. Specifically, BIOS passwords were vulnerable to a flash memory wipe - i.e., an operation on the motherboard would reset all BIOS settings to their default values, including the password. Fortunately, most don't do this any more - at least, not as easily. And notebook manufacturers' customer support teams are unwilling to give assistance unless the caller verifies ownership somehow, e.g., provides their customer order information.

- David Stein
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Old 04-25-04, 10:56 AM
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Originally posted by sfsdfd
BIOS passwords are good for securing the machine - but not the data. As noted, on most systems, accessing the data is a simple matter of swapping the HD into a new machine.

Two recommendations:

1) The filesystem built into Windows XP, 2003, etc. allow for a key-based encrypted volume. Just do some research on "Encrypted File System." Your IT center should be extraordinarily careful about keeping a central store of the encryption key of every machine, in case someone loses/deletes the key.

2) I do recommend BIOS passwords for securing the machine in the event of theft. It's not worthless, but it's not as easy to hack as most think. Specifically, BIOS passwords were vulnerable to a flash memory wipe - i.e., an operation on the motherboard would reset all BIOS settings to their default values, including the password. Fortunately, most don't do this any more - at least, not as easily. And notebook manufacturers' customer support teams are unwilling to give assistance unless the caller verifies ownership somehow, e.g., provides their customer order information.

- David Stein
Great, thanks David...this is useful info for me!
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