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 I never log out, so I never noticed that my password there is a few changes out of date.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.

4 comments:

Jan Pool said...

What strikes me here, as perhaps some kind of record, is that you did not have to restart that WinXP box for so long.

G-J said...

heehee :) Yes, it must be a record! I think it helps that I only use this computer for e-mail and web access. Since I decided to go fully-electronic for my course material (go, Wordpress!) I barely ever leave my browser. A sign of things to come?

Rian said...

Well, I don't know what to find more amazing -- that such a patch exists, or that you have a blog and have up to now not told anyone about it. What kind of a netizen are you!?

G-J said...

Weeeelll... It's a very low-key kind of blog, I haven't even bothered to skin it decently. Its just a place to occasionally stuff thoughts or advice that other people may find useful. I wish I could get round to posting deep, insightful, thought-provoking stuff (and that's really what you do very well at rianonline.com!) but somehow I just never sit down and get writing.