anonymous reader writes: bios password

The men have been working 12 hours straight under back breaking, dark and wet conditions down a coal mine. One of the men notice the canary has gone silent and walks over to inspect the bird cage. A panic rushes over his black soot covered face. He sounds the alarm. The coal mine is filling up with deadly gas and everyone needs to get out before it’s too late…

When someone has physical access to your computer, all bets are off. If you’ve done nothing more then create a windows log in password it won’t be too difficult for someone to access the system. One area of concern is if a co-worker, employee, or even someone you live with attempts to do this when your away from your computer.

The bios is a small firmware that’s responsible for making sure all your hardware like the motherboard, memory, and CPU work together. Setting a bios password means the operating system can’t be accessed until it’s provided. This should be your first line of defense.

Unfortunately your bios password can easily be bypassed. If someone just wants to access files, they can bypass the bios password by removing the hard drive. If someone wanted to install a key logger to spy on your activity and collect account passwords, they can use a jumper switch on the motherboard to clear the password. This feature is built into the motherboard hardware by the manufacturer.

So if it’s so easy to bypass, why bother setting a bios password?

The bios password is the canary in the coal mine. If you return to your computer and your bios password has been reset, someone has attempted to or has accessed your system. At this point, you know it’s not safe to use until it has been cleaned and you have a time frame to work with to start narrowing down suspects.

To prevent anyone from accessing your system even after they bypass the bios password I recommend you encrypt sensitive files using tools such as EFS, encrypt the entire hard drive using Bitlocker for Windows Vista/7 or use third party tools like TrueCrypt.

As soon as you turn on your computer you will see a quick flash of text on a black screen. This will offer options to enter your bios settings using your function keys like <f10> or the delete key. Once you’re in the the bios it should be extremely easy to find the set password option, this video has a good example. You can also look up documentation from your manufacturers website on how to do this.

At the less paranoid end of the spectrum, it’s a good deterrent against anyone just trying to use your computer while your away.