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Aussie government to spy on students via NetBooks?

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Well lets just call it Big Brother in Australia.

Netbooks to be given out to grade 9 students and used through grade 12, or if the student flunks out of school, the Netbook has to be given back to the school.

Tracking capability's at the BIOS level and RFID tracking chips as well(30 foot range).

Well it is the Digital age. Many a school/government would love to know how the kids movements are during and after school(as long as they have the Netbook with them).  

It would also be interesting to know how much the Administrator of the system can manipulate the NetBooks. Such as seeing all the content on the Hard Drive. Or capturing keystrokes and screen shots.

And since they have made the claim of "unhackable" these things should be hacked within the week. You know.. For Privacy issues.  :twisted:

Note that there have been some stories as of late in North America, about 70% of Notebooks having BIOS level tracking capabilities. And many users did not know that.  Kind of like how the police can use the GPS in your phone to find you. Well if you are lost or dead that is.  :roll:

http://www.itnews.com.au/News/156528,nsw-seeks-to-build-unhackable-netbook-network.aspx

NSW seeks to build 'unhackable' netbook network

By Brett Winterford

Sep 23, 2009 12:36 PM

The world's "most hostile computing environment".

The NSW Department of Education is using asset-tracking software, RFID tags, and BIOS-embedded filtering smarts to roll out 240,000 netbook computers into what CIO Stephen Wilson calls "the most hostile environment you can roll computers into" - the local high school.

The rollout of Lenovo netbooks, funded under the Federal Government's Digital Education Revolution initiative, is a massive logistical and IT security challenge, and the solution Wilson and his team has put together to address these issues could well be applicable to any corporate IT department.

Over four years, some 240,000 Lenovo netbooks will be offered to students in Year 9. The netbooks can be kept until Year 12, or permanently should the student finish his or her studies at the school. Netbooks are also being offered to teachers.

To take receipt of the netbooks, students and parents are asked to sign forms in which they acknowledge their responsibility to take care of the machines and use them appropriately.

The laptops come armed with an enterprise version of the new Windows 7 operating system, Microsoft Office, the Adobe CS4 creative suite, Apple iTunes, and content geared specifically to students. Incredibly, while the netbooks are loaded with many hundreds of dollars worth of software, 2GB of RAM and a six hour battery, the cost to the NSW Department of Education is under $500 a unit.

Underneath the covers of the netbooks - and within the network that controls them - lies a great deal more smarts to ensure that the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of each machine does not blow out.

NSW Department of Education and Training (DET) CIO Stephen Wilson said that while private schools and other states have taken a carte blanche approach to handing out laptops as part of the Digital Education Revolution, the DET rollout is "among the more systematic, automated and paperless" projects ever embarked upon.

Security smarts

At the physical layer, each netbook is password-protected and embedded with tracking software that is embedded at the BIOS level of the machine.

This tracking software is administered via an enterprise services bus, which also connects the Remedy suite for asset management, Active Directory for authentication, and Aruba's Airwave for wireless network management.

If a netbook were to be stolen or sold, the DET is able to remotely disable the device over the network. Even if the hard drive of the machine was swapped out or the operating system wiped, it would be useless to unauthorised users.

Already, the department has noted the loss or damage of just six netbooks out of the 20,000 rolled out since August - and have tracked one teacher using their device on a field trip in New Zealand.

While there is a serial number and barcode on each computer, the DET admits that thieves or students might be able to remove them. To combat this, the department is also using passive RFID chips on every machine that will enable them to be identified "even if they were dropped in a bathtub."

Being passive, an RFID reader needs to be within close proximity of the device to read it. (Active RFID, by contrast, transmits a signal back to base.)

DET also uses the AppLocker functionality within Windows 7 to dictate which applications can be installed on the device.

Web access on the netbooks is filtered according to a corporate security policy (using McAfee's SmartFilter technology) plus an additional SOCKS-based proxy client, which provides web filtering at the network layer.

The devices also use Microsoft's Forefront Antivirus technology.

Upgrades

With such a huge fleet of computers in the hands of students, Wilson said it would be "unrealistic" for the department to offer technical support at the application layer.

The netbooks therefore have had to be set up such that the department can remotely upgrade and patch the devices over a wireless network.

The department uses Microsoft's System Centre Configuration Manager tool to distribute software down to devices.

The update service switches off once a student finishes Year 12.

Wilson said there was no way such a large fleet of machines could be managed at such low cost without the smarts embedded within Microsoft's new operating system.

"There was no way we could do any of this on XP," he said. "Windows 7 nailed it for us."

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This is knowledge taken from a Slashdot post, so take of it what you want, but these netbooks are pretty much standard. There's no reason to be sticking an 'unhackable' label on something that is trivially hackable, because it's still Windows. The 'BIOS level' tracking is just software (presumably windows only) and the RFID can be disabled, and the schools don't even get a scanner for those.

I'd say this is just a politician trying to make a name for himself by marketing a mostly succesful IT project.

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And the other side of Electronic books/classes, is that there are plenty of pockets in North America where people are blocking the schools from setting up wireless for the computers in the first place.

In Washington State the ELF(earth liberation F), took out a couple of radio towers with an excavator, cause the rural area did not need to be bombarded by the contamination of wireless.

In the Nova Scotia, half the town is blocking a wireless Internet tower, cause it may mutate the crops. they blocked pesticides many years ago and now they are blocking the next big threat. I guess they enjoy their dialup.  But at least the garlic won't be mutated(yes, that was a reason).

And wait for all those smart meters for Hydro to be installed. 900Mhz on the meter for transmit and 2.4Ghz on the hydro pole for back haul. Some areas though will go cellular frequencies.

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The might as well get rid of the AC lines also.  An improperly run AC line for your house puts out plenty of RF frequency.  Even a properly wired house will put out some.  The electronics in an automobile will put RF.  Remember all the buzzing in the older radios that buzzed with engine RPM?  And speaking of automobile, these electric will be putting out RF of some type.  Nearly all electronics will in some form or other.  Granted it may take longer to get a specified dose but does that really make it safer.  And as far as cell phones go that RF is all around you.  It's not from the tower to your phone like a string.  Lets take it a little further.  RF is "Radio Frequency". AM/FM radios and television all operate on RF.  Again it may not be as high of a frequency as a cell phone but it is still RF and can be damaging either way.  Just may not take as long.  I have been using a handset against my head for about 20 years now and have yet to develope any kind of brain cancer.

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