We live in a Sad World – Purism Anti-Interdiction Services are (Somewhat) Popular

A few years ago, we learned the NSA may intercept networking gear during shipping in order to modify it to provide backdoor access to the hardware, and it’s likely other national security agencies around the world also modify hardware on transit for spying purposes.

I’d think most people would not really care, and only high-profile business and governmental targets may take preventive measures, but according to a recent post from Purism, their Anti-interdiction services are fairly popular among their customers.

Wait… What? What is “anti-interdiction”. The only definition I know of is: “the action of prohibiting or forbidding something”. But it turns out there’s another definition that applies here:

the action of intercepting and preventing the movement of a prohibited commodity or person.

Purism laptops are not exactly prohibited, but you get the point, and the anti-interdiction services are meant, not to prevent, but detect interdiction of laptops or other purisms hardware on their way to the customer.

Anti interdiction
Laptop with nail polish on all screws

The company already offers a $69 PureBoot Bundle that includes secure firmware with Librem “Vault” USB key used to detect firmware tampering. This should be good enough for most people, but Purism anti-interdiction services go further with some detection measures that include:

  • Glitter nail polish on screws
  • Customized tamper-evident tape on a bag surrounding the laptop and its box
  • PureBoot Bundle (to detect firmware/OS tampering) with a custom PIN
  • Shipping the Librem Key and laptop separately (optionally to separate addresses) to further frustrate interdiction
  • Customized threat model coordinated over encrypted email
  • Sending pictures of the laptop measures we performed over encrypted email

This all takes time because counter-measures are customer-specific, encrypted email support must be set up on the customer side, etc..

You may feel it’s over the top, but the company was surprised by the number of people interested in the service:

While some people are definitely picking it because they are in a high threat situation, others just want the peace of mind that comes with knowing their laptop won’t be tampered with in transit without their knowing about it. We’ve also seen orders from Enterprise customers who are considering adding this service to all their future orders.

I feel a little sad that we’ve come to a point where people feel they have to take such extreme measures.

PureBoot Bundle Anti Interdiction

The PureBoot Bundle Anti-Interdiction is now a visible, $249 option for Purism laptops, server, Librem Mini mini PC, and the company will also offer this option for Librem 5 smartphone.

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16 Replies to “We live in a Sad World – Purism Anti-Interdiction Services are (Somewhat) Popular”

    1. Haha .. you think Trump did this ? .. thats funny.
      This has been going on for at least 10 years (my previous employers/clients going back 10 years would PAY EXTRA to NOT have equipment shipped – to avoid various US agencies intercepting).
      The US has ZERO credibility nowadays .. worse than the chinese.

  1. The same with the Tor-project, the us-goverment is one of the greatest supporters incl. big nodes. Email&cloud Scanner from google and Microsoft are real.

  2. Yes, these things exist. Of course, they do. But, do you really think the NSA or Chinese government really care about smartphones for normal people? They don’t. It would be also way simpler to inject a backdoor into the firmware of the LTE chip or something. These are closed source and nobody knows how they are supposed to look like. Have fun detecting this.

    1. ^ this

      You can just imagine someone buying one of these thinking they’ve beat the NSA only to go and install the non-free firmware package for wifi firmware etc without even blinking an eye.

    2. It’s amazing how conspirationists continue to be obsessed by hardware backdoors when exploitable software vulnerabilities are routinely available, are so numerous that there is a market for them, and that they even allowed the finely targetted stuxnet worm to be developed!

      Hardware backdoors are extremely expensive to create, and cannot be exploited without complicity from the running software. They’re just neither affordable nor reliable compared to what can be achieved with software alone. But at least the myth around them allows some companies to make a lot of money by selling slow, outdated or crippled hardware to credulous people to make them feel better, so as long as everyone’s happy that’s fine!

      1. Like the openssl heartbleed which was going on for many year. Just a software bug, who needs to tamper HW.

        On the other hand, in my origin country there was a scandal a few years ago that the prime minister’s mobile was tampered and a Trojan was found in the provider’s routers that could tamper any phone number. The man responsible for those equipment found hanged in his house and the official announcement was that he committed suicide, though the people who found him said later that it was impossible to do that in that scene the way it was found. After a couple of days the media just stopped mention anything about it and now only his family tries for many years to prove that the guy didn’t killed himself.

        Anyway, you don’t know what is conspiracy or truth anymore, because the line is blurry.

        Edit: after those years I’ve just seen that his family actually manage to prove it was murder. But of course, no further investigation on who tampered the equipment. You can translate the link from Greek to English.

        https://www.documentonews.gr/article/dolofonia-o-thanatos-toy-prwhn-stelexoys-ths-vodafone-kwsta-tsalikidh

  3. I’ve ordered a 5 midrange and cheap phones to Canada from all over. They all have removable batteries. They were all opened by customs and plugged in carelessly (scratches/scuffs), as if somebody was just production lining all phones, connecting them to a computer installing spyware.

    Big brother hates removable batteries. Those variants aren’t apparently even permitted to be sold in Canada. Phone bootloaders are locked to prevent wiping properly. I thought the US was bad. We’re even closer to being China!

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