Friday, February 10, 2006

The Professor, The Computer and the Big Fat Lie..

Professor Jasper Rine lectures at UC Berkeley. Recently his laptop was stolen by a thief who was after exam data. Unfortunately for the thief, Professor Rine had some important stuff on that laptop.The webcast of last Friday's Biology 1A lecture gets very interesting at timecode 48:50. I've transcribed Prof Rine's comments here, so you can see what a world of shit the thief is in:

  • "Thanks Gary. I have a message for one person in this audience - I'm sorry the rest of you have to sit through this. As you know, my computer was stolen in my last lecture. The thief apparently wanted to betray everybody's trust, and was after the exam.The thief was smart not to plug the computer into the campus network, but the thief was not smart enough to do three things: he was not smart enough to immediately remove Windows. I installed the same version of Windows on another computer - within fifteen minutes the people in Redmond Washington were very interested to know why it was that the same version of Windows was being signalled to them from two different computers.

  • The thief also did not inactivate either the wireless card or the transponder that's in that computer. Within about an hour, there was a signal from various places on campus that's allowed us to track exactly where that computer went every time that it was turned on. I'm not particularly concerned about the computer. But the thief, who thought he was only stealing an exam, is presently - we think - is probably still in possession of three kinds of data, any one of which can send this man, this young boy, actually, to federal prison. Not a good place for a young boy to be.

  • You are in possession of data from a hundred million dollar trial, sponsored by the NIH, for which I'm a consultant. This involves some of the largest companies on the planet, the NIH investigates these things through the FBI, they have been notified about this problem.You are in possession of trade secrets from a Fortune 1000 biotech company, the largest one in the country, which I consult for. The Federal Trade Communication is very interested in this. Federal Marshals are the people who handle that.

  • You are in possession of proprietary data from a pre-public company planning an IPO. The Securities and Exchange Commission is very interested in this and I don't even know what branch of law enforcement they use.

  • Your academic career is about to come to an end. You are facing very serious charges, with a probability of very serious time. At this point, there's very little that anybody can do for you. One thing that you can do for yourself is to somehow prove that the integrity of the data which you possess has not been corrupted or copied.Ironically, I am the only person on the planet that can come to your aid, because I am the only person that can tell whether the data that was on that computer are still on that computer. You will have to find a way of hoping that if you've copied anything that you can prove you only have one copy of whatever was made.

  • I am tied up all this afternoon; I am out of town all of next week. You have until 11:55 to return the computer, and whatever copies you've made, to my office, because I'm the only hope you've got of staying out of deeper trouble than you or any student I've ever known has ever been in.I apologise to the rest of you for having to bring up this distasteful matter, but I will point out that we have a partial image of this person, we have two eyewitnesses, with the transponder data we're going to get this person."

Important Update: The Professor admits he made it up to try to scare the thief - who has not, incidentally, returned the laptop. Wonder what this will do for the Professors credibility in the future - seems to me the loss of credibility is bigger than the loss of the computer.

(This story is from the blog Blast Radius which you can link to from any of the underlined areas in this blog. Thank you James Murgatroyd for drawing this wonderfully weird story to my attention. The question, then, is whether the Professor is more stupid than the thief).

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