Thursday, August 20, 2009

Breaking into your own home

So the inevitable happened again. Due to the password policy at work, I have to change my login password every couple of months, which then (in theory) gets propagated to all the computers and services where I want to log in. Except that there's always an exception, and this time it happened to be the Windows XP box I'm temporarily using in my office while waiting for my new laptop. I never log out, so I never noticed that my password there is a few changes out of date. Windows installed some new patches, wanted to reboot, and suddenly I'm stuck at the login screen with no idea what my password was 6 months ago when I set up this computer. It had "duck" in it somewhere, I'm pretty sure, but also some numbers or funny characters...

After racking my brain for a while, I realised that I was locked out. I hunted around for a couple of minutes, and came across this lovely little utility called Offline NT Password & Registry Editor that allows you to blank your existing NT/XP/Vista password. It's a 3MB download for a bootable CD image, and it works like a charm! 15 minutes later I was back in business.

It was exceedingly simple. And it would have been exceedingly simple for anyone with this boot disk to get access to my data. Which just underlines the old security maxim: if someone can get physical access to your machine, your data may well be at risk.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

New Medialab website up

The website for the MIH Electronic Media Laboratory at Stellenbosch University is up and running — go and have a look! We hope that, as more content is added, it will become a showcase for our research.

We're also in the process of recruiting new MSc and PhD students for next year, and there are some generous bursaries and fascinating research topics available. If you're interested, or know of a bright graduate with a BSc, BSc(hons) or BEng that might be, please visit the site for prospective students. We're especially interested in attracting students from South Africa, India and China.