Monday, April 25, 2005

The case of the stolen laptop...

Professor Jasper Rine lectures at UC Berkeley. Recently his laptop was stolen by a thief who was after exam data. Unfortunately for the thief, Professor Rine had some important stuff on that laptop.

The webcast of last Friday's Biology 1A lecture gets very interesting at timecode 48:50. I've transcribed Prof Rine's comments here, so you can see what a world of shit the thief is in:

Boing Boing reader Tim furnishes a transcript of the professor's lecture following the theft of his laptop by some poor chap who thought it would be a cool way to steal information instead of learning it the old fashioned way, studying.
File under "stupid mistakes...big, stupid mistakes."

"Thanks Gary. I have a message for one person in this audience - I'm sorry the rest of you have to sit through this. As you know, my computer was stolen in my last lecture. The thief apparently wanted to betray everybody's trust, and was after the exam.

The thief was smart not to plug the computer into the campus network, but the thief was not smart enough to do three things: he was not smart enough to immediately remove Windows. I installed the same version of Windows on another computer - within fifteen minutes the people in Redmond Washington were very interested to know why it was that the same version of Windows was being signalled to them from two different computers.

The thief also did not inactivate either the wireless card or the transponder that's in that computer. Within about an hour, there was a signal from various places on campus that's allowed us to track exactly where that computer went every time that it was turned on.

I'm not particularly concerned about the computer. But the thief, who thought he was only stealing an exam, is presently - we think - is probably still in possession of three kinds of data, any one of which can send this man, this young boy, actually, to federal prison. Not a good place for a young boy to be.

You are in possession of data from a hundred million dollar trial, sponsored by the NIH, for which I'm a consultant. This involves some of the largest companies on the planet, the NIH investigates these things through the FBI, they have been notified about this problem.

You are in possession of trade secrets from a Fortune 1000 biotech company, the largest one in the country, which I consult for. The Federal Trade Communication is very interested in this. Federal Marshals are the people who handle that.

You are in possession of proprietary data from a pre-public company planning an IPO. The Securities and Exchange Commission is very interested in this and I don't even know what branch of law enforcement they use.

Your academic career is about to come to an end. You are facing very serious charges, with a probability of very serious time. At this point, there's very little that anybody can do for you. One thing that you can do for yourself is to somehow prove that the integrity of the data which you possess has not been corrupted or copied.

Ironically, I am the only person on the planet that can come to your aid, because I am the only person that can tell whether the data that was on that computer are still on that computer. You will have to find a way of hoping that if you've copied anything that you can prove you only have one copy of whatever was made.

I am tied up all this afternoon; I am out of town all of next week. You have until 11:55 to return the computer, and whatever copies you've made, to my office, because I'm the only hope you've got of staying out of deeper trouble than you or any student I've ever known has ever been in.

I apologise to the rest of you for having to bring up this distasteful matter, but I will point out that we have a partial image of this person, we have two eyewitnesses, with the transponder data we're going to get this person."

Also, Boing Boing, Joe Gandelman

UPDATE, same day of post...

He was bluffing. The PC was stolen, but the prof made up that great threat. Didn't take the blogosphere long to find out and pass it on.
Too bad. It sure made fun reading...
Also Malkin, Barber, Gandelman, whatever....

1 comment:

vietnamcatfish said...

I turned in the computer at 11:54. Little did I know I was in a heep, er, heap of trouble. There were no cliff notes for this particular exam, and in a weak moment, I decided to "borrow" the laptop. Little did I know the professor was a CIA operative and most of the inherent info was "For Your Eyes [ prof ] Only." I have learned my lesson. May the courts have mercy on me. But because I didn't rape, murder, or smuggle tons of heroin into the country, they [ authorities ] will most likely throw away the key. And I won't return to freedom until the year 2040 when I will be eligible for social security. Provided it still exists. I have since learned-while beginning this response-that my new email address is now Hopefully I won't drop my bar of soap in the showers. v.c.