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First OLPC Deployment: Now It's Real

Dec 03, 2007, 19:00 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Ivan Krstić)

"Early on, when talking to countries interested in OLPC laptops, we heard one serious concern repeatedly: theft. In places where the price of an XO is several times larger than the annual per capita income, the laptop is an obvious target. To mitigate the issue, the Bitfrost security platform features a three-prong theft deterrence system; without going into too much detail (more information is available), one key protection feature deters XO theft in the delivery chain by deactivating the laptops when they leave the factory. Until they're activated at the target school with keys that are delivered out of band, the laptops are non-functional bricks.

"A couple of months ago, we were picking apart the deployment details of this scheme in a security review with Nicholas and Walter. The scheme requires certain logistical information to be available: either we have to know where laptops are heading somewhat in advance so activation keys can be generated and delivered, or trusted deployment teams have to scan laptop barcodes once they arrive at each school. I was given good assurances that enough information will be available to allow everything to proceed smoothly, but in attempting to establish the worst-case scenario, I might have asked 'how can we be sure?' one time too many. Eventually, Nicholas responded with 'well, we'll just mail you along with the first laptop shipment, and then you can be sure just how things will work.' And thus, when Uruguay officially became the first country to place an order for XO laptops, OLPC purchased a ticket that had me landing in Montevideo, the capital, the same day as the first batch of machines. My mission: make sure nothing breaks. Translation: when something breaks, fix it..."

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