The Empire Hikes Back: The return of the ‘pooters

Posted: December 30, 2011 by tallbloke in Legal

I got an email from Norfolk Police yesterday saying they have finished examining our laptop computers and asking if they could return them today. I ‘phoned back as requested and had a genial chat with the Detective Constable handling the handover.

He is on the road now and says he should arrive around mid day GMT. I hope he’s using the police Lambo, because I have stuff to do later.

I made it clear that I will sign for their return but not for their condition, which will be independently checked.

The DC said that was fine with him because they have lots of photos of the strip and rebuild which will show how careful they have been.

Glad to hear it chaps!

We will of course fit new drives and quarantine the old ones. I’ll ask the DC for a copy of the photos of the Nokia Booklet 3G strip and rebuild, because I couldn’t see any screws on the single piece of alloy forming the main chassis!

Updates after lunch.

UPDATE: 12.25pm GMT

Well, they look cleaner than when they left. 🙂

I’ve stashed them in a soundproof cupbaord with the batteries out, just to be on the safe side. 🙂 🙂

I don’t have time to write it up now, but there is more to tell about the conversation I had with the DC.

Further update asap, but I’m called away on family business (and pleasure).

  1. clark says:

    I suggest you re-flash the BIOS while you’re at it:

    Click to access NIST-SP800-147-April2011.pdf

    Also, be careful that there is no “HPA” area on the returned hard disks, this is a section of hard disk that can be hidden from the BIOS and the OS. If you haven’t heard of this, check out the utility MHDD, which can be found on the System Rescue CD:

    Sorry to be harbinger of bad news, but graphics cards, optical drives, network cards etc all have their own flashable BIOSes that could have been interfered with. I’ve never heard of this being done, but then no one expected Stuxnet, did they?

  2. clark says:

    If you feel like kicking up a court case, you could claim compensation to replace the whole lot. After all, the police have recently been in a lot of trouble for their covert infiltration of activist movements. Seeing as those operations are undercover, there is no way the police can guarantee that your equipment has not been modified to their specifications. Certainly, if you took a police computer and later returned it, the police would have to regard it as potentially subverted and a total loss. I don’t really see why that shouldn’t apply in reverse.

  3. Michael Hart says:

    I bet Starsky and Hutch would never have used a light source like that on top of their car.

  4. DaveR says:

    I didn’t think you could make a Lambo look bad. ;( Don’t trust the puter’s. Perhaps you could donate them to Greenpeace or OWS.

  5. Tenuc says:

    Good news Rog, glad the PC’s have been returned. Regarding possible ‘dirty tricks’, I spoke to a knowledgeable friend about the police seizure of your PC equipment and he was amazed so many officers were involved and the lengthy period they spent in your home. His theory was that it’s possible surveillance equipment was planted during the raid, so perhaps worth a check to make sure all is clear.

    We live in interesting times were civil liberties are being trampled on by the authorities at the behest of those with vested interests. Please stay alert!!!

  6. tallbloke says:

    OK, I’m not around to monitor this thread for a while. So by all means keep the interesting technical info coming, but please refrain from cop bashing. I still have some kind of relationship with the police, even if it has been somewhat strained recently.

  7. orkneylad says:

    Clark – that’s some good advice.

  8. Joe Public says:

    Minor conflict:

    In your previous posting you state

    No arrest was made, the police only wished to clone the disks of my computers. …”

    Yet in this post you advise that “We will of course fit new drives and quarantine the old ones. ”

    Perhaps the earlier posting should be updated to “….the police stated they only wished to clone ….”

  9. Tenuc says:

    tallbloke says:
    December 30, 2011 at 12:33 pm
    “…please refrain from cop bashing…”

    Good point Rog. Two of my best friends are in the force and I’ve nothing but the greatest admiration and respect for the job they do. However, not following orders is not an option for them, even if they disagree with what they’ve been told to do.

    It is very dangerous to society if control of the police force ends up in the wrong hands.

  10. Clark says:

    Tenuc, I’d agree with you there about respect for police officers; I’ve seen some excellent policing over the years. However, with ACPO a private concern, the relationship between certain anti-terrorist units and the gutter press, some of the “phone hacking” revelations, and various questionable relationships with private security concerns, some consider that control of the police force already has considerable problems.

  11. jorgekafkazar says:

    I have considerable compassion for whichever policemen have to actually read the Climategate emails, seining for clews and seeing the outrageous scam being pulled on the entire UK, including themselves, by academic data-wankers.

  12. Aussie says:

    There are police everywhere, in every country who make mistakes. However, that does not mean that we should disrespect them 🙂

  13. Brian H says:

    Hoping to get some clues from the pix about how to take your laptops apart? 😉

  14. I still have only managed to repost seven of those leaked IPCC files. I am hoping that you or your faithful followers can send me the missing ones.

  15. PhilJourdan says:

    Not cop bashing, just a question about the laws of the UK. In the US, it would be virtually impossible to win a civil suit claiming damages against the police (your reference to not signing anything about the condition). Is it easier to win such cases in the UK? (purely hypothetical since they seemed to have at least maintained the physical condition of the units).

  16. dave ward says:

    Maybe I’m being thick, but if “the police only wished to clone the disks of my computers” why did they strip and rebuild them? Removing the HDD from a laptop normally only requires opening a dedicated cover (usually on the underside) secured with a couple of screws!

    Given no advance warning of the visit, it’s hardly likely you would have modified them, or fitted some “extras”.

  17. […] though, life does go on … Tallbloke’s computers have been returned to him … and the recognition and success of Donna Laframboise’s The Delinquent Teenager […]

  18. Yo, TB,
    I’m a retired Police Officer and I’m always willing to defend the Boys in Blue. It’s not them who you have to worry about, it’s the “laboratories” to which your ‘puters were sent. The Police (and by that I mean the real Coppers) have no sway over what is done therein, all they get is the final report on which they are ordered to act. The “laboratories” are hired directly by HQ (by whom in HQ can never be clarified) and it is solely upon HQ that the “laboratories” depend for payment. Ergo, they find just what HQ wants them to “find”.
    Don’t even touch your returned ‘puters. Do NOT power them up. Keep them as exhibits, even seal them in plastic bags.
    You never know when you might need the evidence hidden within them.
    Cynical? Me? an ex-Copper?

    [Reply] Thanks Stephen. They are locked in a cupboard with the batteries out at the moment. I’m intending to get them independently tested, after we make our own clones of the drives, using a BSD unix distribution.

  19. RayG says:

    I couldn’t tell from the photo whether or not the plod’s Lambo is the plug hybrid version or not.

  20. David. A. Evans says:

    Sorry Stephen.

    I used to respect the plods, (probably your generation of them,) but now wouldn’t give most the time of day.
    I have a clean record but was pulled on the scantiest of evidence for something I hadn’t done.
    I was generally treated like something you’d throw your boots out for, so NO, they don’t get my respect anymore.
    They do of course now have my dabs, mug shot & DNA on the PNC.

    How much do you want for the lappies Rog? I no longer give a crap what they trace on me.


    [Reply] Are you serious? If so, let me know and I’ll email you. 🙂

  21. Guam says:

    Hi TB lots of sound advice on the thread re the Hardware returned, many of us however are still intrigued to know exactly at whos behest your were raided and on what grounds.
    It seems to many of us this was done on the flimsiest of motives and that for many was one of our biggest concern with what was done to you.
    I note on your last comment you indicate a further update to come?

    Any prospect you will tackle these points in that update?

    Keep up the good work 🙂

  22. tallbloke says:

    Hi Guam, there will be a new thread once the wheels are turning.


  23. Political Junkie says:

    “How much do you want for the lappies Rog? I no longer give a crap what they trace on me.



    Why don’t you hold an on-line auction for these babies? You might do well – after all, they are very rare collectors’ items.

  24. SidF says:

    Newer laptops have HDDs that can be removed by removing two screws and sliding out. I have an older Sony Vaio here that needed a complete teardown to get the HHD out so that it could be mounted on another system directly.