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Absolute persistance technology amounts to a persistent rootkit pre-installed by many device manufacturers (Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, Toshiba, etc) to facilitate LoJack for laptops, and other backdoor services:

The Absolute persistence module is built to detect when the Computrace and/or Absolute Manage software agents have been removed, ensuring they are automatically reinstalled, even if the firmware is flashed, the device is re-imaged, the hard drive is replaced, or if a tablet or smartphone is wiped clean to factory settings.

Absolute persistence technology is built into the BIOS or firmware of a device during the manufacturing process.

This has echoes of both Rakshasa and vPro.

Anyhow, if a user legally purchases, secondhand or new, a device that originally had Absolute persistence technology built in and may even have had it activated, and wishes:

  • to detect whether the technology is still present in the device; and, if so,
  • to remove that technology from the device (i.e. disinfect the device),

how best should (s)he go about this?

I'm guessing that Coreboot is part of the answer.

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2 Answers 2

According to the FAQ:

What if the Absolute software agent needs to be removed from a device?

IT administrators that have been authorized to do so, may carry out this function themselves within the Absolute Customer Center for Computrace, or from within the Absolute Manage console for Absolute Manage software agent removal.

I.e. you have to allow CompuTrace to be installed, persuade Absolute that you are the authorised user now, get control transferred to you, and de-activate it using their managed service.

Which will certainly involve sending them money.

I am guessing that CompuTrace will be detected by any competent antivirus as "remote management software" which you can probably flag not to run.

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I'm afraid this FAQ answer ("What if the Absolute software agent needs to be removed from a device?") doesn't address my question, as it would only remove the software agent, not the Active persistence technology. –  sampablokuper Mar 19 at 18:20
    
As for using mainstream antivirus software to block the execution of any part of the Active system, that's unlikely to work: "the [Absolute] rootkit is white-listed by anti-virus software". –  sampablokuper Mar 19 at 18:25

"Absolute persistence technology is built into the BIOS or firmware of a device during the manufacturing process."

So, in addition to removing the agent, you will need to flash the BIOS or firmware of the device, with a version without the technology.

Since "core boot is a Free Software project aimed at replacing the proprietary BIOS (firmware) found in most computers", it is potentially part of an answer.

Of course, you haven't specified a device, so it's impossible to provide you with a detailed answer. The only correct answer is 'it depends'.

The functionality of the technology requires that removing it remain infeasible, so its quality/repuation hinges on us being unable to provide you with a detailed answer.

It's really not one technology, but many; review the NSA's ANT technology codenamed DEITYBOUNCE, IRONCHEF, FEEDTROUGH, GOURMETTROUGH, etc; see https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:NSA_ANT...

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I didn't specify a device because I'm interested in in the general case and I don't know whether there's a common implementation or if implementation varies from model to model. Still, if you want a specific suggestion, how about the ThinkPad X60? –  sampablokuper Apr 17 at 17:44
    
That's cool. The only correct answer is 'it depends', because the implementation varies from model to model. I don't have specifics for the ThinkPad X60. For the Juniper brand, for example, there are three implementations in the NSA toolbox. Can these be detected? Not readily. There is no answer to your question 'till someone knows what the technology is in a specific case. How to go about knowing that? Buy the tech, and compare a protected system to an unprotected one. –  Matthew Elvey Apr 25 at 19:11
    
I'm not sure what you mean by "protected". Presumably, you mean one with the Absolute rootkit removed. Anyhow, this still begs the question of how to get both a protected and unprotected X60 (for instance) in order to make such a comparison. –  sampablokuper Apr 26 at 13:34

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