Computers

How remote software locks can inhibit computer reuse – E-Scrap News

Summary

Software locks can be an effective tool to prevent theft and loss of sensitive data, but they can also gum up ITAD firms’ refurbishment processes. | rangizz/Shutterstock

Casey Mathson at Dynamic Lifecycle Innovations dreads this scenario: An individual buys a refurbished computer online, only to have previously undetected firmware brick the device and claim it was stolen from “XYZ” company. That angry consumer calls XYZ, whi…….

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Software locks can be an effective tool to prevent theft and loss of sensitive data, but they can also gum up ITAD firms’ refurbishment processes. | rangizz/Shutterstock

Casey Mathson at Dynamic Lifecycle Innovations dreads this scenario: An individual buys a refurbished computer online, only to have previously undetected firmware brick the device and claim it was stolen from “XYZ” company. That angry consumer calls XYZ, which contracts with Dynamic for ITAD services.

“We don’t want the customer to think that we’re stealing laptops and selling them on e-commerce,” said Mathson, quality and inventory specialist at the Onalaska, Wis.-based ITAD company.

This reputational damage situation, while not yet common, could play out more often in future years as more companies and public agencies subscribe to remote management software services. 

An effective tool to prevent theft and loss of sensitive data, software locks can also gum up ITAD firms’ refurbishment processes. Processors must quarantine the locked computers and contact their upstream customers or the software provider to request a lock deactivation.

“Now, not all companies have these installed in their devices. But all it takes is a relatively big client to raise the cost of labor significantly within the ITAD provider,” said David Daoud, principal analyst at ITAD industry research and consulting firm Compliance Standards. 

E-Scrap News recently talked with a few processors and a major software provider about the issue and ways ITAD companies can unlock devices. Companies said the locks can sometimes lead them to simply scrapping otherwise-sellable computers. 

‘It’s just become more and more common’

A number of companies have long provided different types of remote management software, including OEMs such as Apple and Microsoft, so the technology certainly isn’t new. 

Casey Dingfelder, vice president of ITAD at Dynamic, said his company has been aware of remote locks for many years, but that “it’s just become more and more common.” 

Noah La Liberte, director of outbound sales for the company, estimated that 1 in 5 computers recently received from upstream customers have some kind of software lock. They’re heavily used by banking and healthcare organizations, he said. 

“Now, not all companies have these installed in their devices. But all it takes is a relatively big client to raise the cost of labor significantly within the ITAD provider.” – David Daoud, Compliance Standards

Lately, Dynamic has frequently encountered “Computrace,” a technology from Absolute Software, which has worked with major OEMs to embed locks into the firmware of roughly 600 million new devices. When an enterprise signs up with Absolute, the otherwise-dormant code is activated and the subscriber can remotely install or remove software, wipe data or lock the computer and …….

Source: https://resource-recycling.com/e-scrap/2021/11/18/how-remote-software-locks-can-inhibit-computer-reuse/