Sunday, September 20, 2009

Disturbing Software

I've just read an article from one of my news feeds that kind of disturbs me.  It was in regards to a piece of software called LogMeIn, a package designed for the Enterprise market that allows their IT managers to keep tabs on hundreds or thousands of machines.  It's sort of based on the "Wake On LAN" technology that allows dummy terminals to be remotely controlled but it's far more sophisticated.

It's based mainly on Intel's VPro, Q45 technology that allows remote computers to be administered to regardless if they are turned off or even if they have crashed as long as they're plugged in and have an ethernet connection.  In the article, the interviewer and LogMeIn's owner joke about a version of the software that has been installed in certain vehicles to allow the owners to start up their PC's remotely.  There is a version of this software available to the general public which isn't as intense as the industrial version and is available for download when one tunes in to the website at the link above.

It says that for home users this won't be a problem as the software stems on the fact that permissions must be given to allow the connection.  Yeah, right.  I can imagine that in the hands of unscrupulous vendors a batch of these business computers that have been rotated and disposed of due to the leasing agreements most businesses have, this software can be modified for purposes other than honourable.  Thankfully, most of the major manufacturers have a buy-back programme that will dispose of their older computers, but what of those smaller, independent firms who manufacture the thousands upon thousands of no-name units sought after by small to mid-sized businesses?

Admittedly, refurbishing computers is slowly falling to the wayside as hardware prices continue to drop.  Why bother with a refurbished unit when for as little as $100 - $175 more one can purchase a brand new, up to date unit with a manufacturer's warranty?

The article goes on to say that the VPro technology won't be available for the home consumer market.  So what?  It's the motherboards that can be purchased in bulk by independent manufacturers, usually as end-of-line production runs when the commercial contracts get upgraded.

Any decent programmer should be able to reverse-engineer this LogMeIn programme to do other than what it is originally designed for.  The author of the article ends with saying that folks could stick to AMD processors (the AMD folks will love this) and to pull the plug on your box when you're not using it.  A temporary stop gap at best, if you ask me.


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