School spying: infected laptops mandatory, jailbreaking grounds for explusion

Here's an excellent investigative post on the surveillance technology and policy that Pennsylvania's Lower Merion School District employed against its students. Two security researchers, "Stryde" and Aaron Rhodes, read through the web-posts and other material made public by the school administrators who maintained the laptop surveillance as well as student accounts of its use and reports on the policies that surrounded it:

* Possession of a monitored Macbook was required for classes

* Possession of an unmonitored personal computer was forbidden and would be confiscated

* Disabling the camera was impossible

* Jailbreaking a school laptop in order to secure it or monitor it against intrusion was an offense which merited expulsion

Stryde also reverse-engineered "LANRev," the spyware that came installed on all student laptops:

During our testing, we infected a laptop with LANRev, then closed the lid, hoping to activate the LANRev feature which takes a webcam picture when the computer wakes. As my colleague Aaron opened the lid of his Mac, the green webcam light flickered, ever so briefly. It wasn't a glitch. It was a highly sophisticated remote spy in his system. And even though he was in control, the effect was still very creepy.

Mike Perbix, who deployed the spyware, features heavily in a promotional video for LANRev, but the vendor has now disavowed him:

"We discourage any customer from taking theft recovery into their own hands," said Stephen Midgley, the company's head of marketing, in an interview Monday. "That's best left in the hands of professionals."

I've watched the 50 minute screencast repeatedly, where Perbix describes his use of this feature outside of school grounds repeatedly during a conversation with Absolute Software employees. They were enthusiastic… now they're throwing LMSD under the bus? I believe this can best be described as intense PR spin. It also completely confirms what I've asserted here, that LANRev was the implant of choice for this school.

The Spy at Harriton High

(Thanks, RikChik!)