Wifi Killswitch didn't work when I needed it to


#1

So recently I was given a security scare where I thought my laptop might have been compromised with user-level malware. I immediately, trusting my hardware, tried to kill the internet, but subsequently learned my notebook was still online, and that the killswitch I was given was entirely ineffective. That is, I am perfectly able to connect to my LAN, use bluetooth, and access the internet regardless of what orientation I set the switch to. The specific reason I bought this machine was its privacy and security guarantees, and one of those was the ability to turn off my laptop’s radio hardware when it didn’t need to be sending messages. While I also, thankfully, was able to determine I wasn’t hacked, I am justifiably disappointed.

I don’t know if the switch was broken over the course of my the last ~6 months, or if it was broken when I got it. All I know now is that I am making this post on that very same laptop, while the OS is supposed to be physically unable to use my wifi card. This is the sort of basic, ground-zero security feature that should practically guarantee what it says it does. I think it’s important that I let other people know about this problem because they might also be doing security critical work and they ought to be reminded to test their hardware.


#2

Are you sure the Bluetooth works even when the switch is off? Can you test this a few times and report back?


#3

This is a pretty serious allegation and I’d like to see an update or a reply from someone at Purism.


#4

I had a similar problem with my webcam kill switch–it didn’t kill anything. It may be that the switches fail and / or the method for connecting the switches to the motherboard isn’t reliable. It’s some thin wires that get covered with what looks like RTV silicone–appears to be a by-hand job. Perhaps variance is too high in the production process.


#5

I have to ask an obvious question… Are you sure you were turning off wifi and not the microphone and webcam?


#6

Let me clarify that I’ve received a new 15v3 from Purism, and later versions of the 15v3 appear to have the kill switches integrated into the PCB and on the right side of the computer, not centered beneath the display.


#7

I would really like to see an official reply to this topic from somebody at Purism. Are there any actual Purism people on this forum? I don’t know whom to tag.


#8

Purism staff do occasionally lurk and chime in, though I think these forums are primarily community-oriented.

@mladen is probably the main contact for something like this