Notebook for prison inmates bought on eBay — ‘Justice Tech Solutions Securebook’ is locked down but has freedoom-loving Linux

Over on Twitter, user @zephray_wenting recently documented his buying of a locked-down prison laptop on eBay, and subsequent attempts to jailbreak it into an actually-usable freedom-loving machine.

The laptop in question, the Justice Tech Solutions Securebook 5, is outfitted with an 8th Gen Intel Celeron N3450, a chipset running at a maximum of 2.2 GHz across four cores. There is also 4GB of non-upgradable LPDDR3 RAM, and… no storage to hold an operating system, since the laptop was apparently only intended for docked use. It’s not quite a powerhouse, but it does have reasonably modern specs for light desktop use— if you could actually run an operating system on it.

By default, the unit has no operating system, no USB ports, and an unhelpful BIOS that auto-resets itself whenever the power is cut, making it extra difficult to flash a new BIOS over. You will also be presented with a locked password screen on boot. The laptop itself does look kind of nice, though— if you’re a fan of transparent plastic shells for your electronics.

Overhead shot of the Securebook 5, revealing it uses an (apparently) standard AMI BIOS. (Image credit: @zephray_wenting on Twitter)

But rest assured: the story does not end there. As always, a techie doubling as a sufficiently determined madman is all you need to address an issue like this. As the original thread continues, @zephray_wenting proves those madman credentials by working around all the limitations he finds. By using a flash programmer, he was able to locate the password in the BIOS’ NVRAM and zero it out… but came across the prior-mentioned self-restoring issue in the process.

The real workaround, then? Replacing the BIOS without removing power to the motherboard, since doing so would automatically reflash the original BIOS. This allowed him to enter the original BIOS, but the matter of installing an OS was still problematic. The laptop is also unusual in having a hard drive whitelist, which means only very specific drives could be used even if inserted (and none were included)— so instead, he had to manually mod a USB hub onto the laptop to connect boot media.

Fortunately, there was no USB whitelist of any kind— so the subsequent installation of Ubuntu MATE went off without a hitch! The modder also went on to install the appropriately titled “FreeDoom” onto the laptop, which is basically an open-source effort at recreating the Doom engine while maintaining compatibility with existing Doom mods.