PC Security and Gatekeeper

Not something you’d really expect to see on my blog (Nov 2020: and unlikely to be repeated – read on..) I’m writing this short piece on the Gatekeeper product by Untethered Labs as I spend more time than I like to think about, keeping my equipment safe from outside intrusion and when GKChain offered to send a sample of their Gatekeeper product, I thought – why not.

The company provided links for enterprise and single users – I’m more interested in the latter.

Here’s what arrived in the pack…and yes they are CR2450 3v batteries. At first sight I thought they’d sent 2 dongles but it turns out the round device below is just a spring retracting, 2-USB extension lead and they supplied 2 batteries along with some cable clips. Fitting the battery to the rectangular “token” called “Halbert” took seconds. The USB WiFi dongles were unmarked and looked pretty generic. I plugged on of the dongles into my PC (in my case the USB extension leads were not needed).

Gatekeeper security

Armed with my new “necklace” I put it next to the USB dongle and went off in search of sofware. Gatekeeper-retail-win.msi (second link above) is a 62MB download so that took very little time – I downloaded it to my Windows 10 64-bit PC in a matter of seconds.

I then ran the software and the first screen which appeared, told me to “scan token” at which point a “Found Gatekeeper Tokens” dialog showed up and a single “Halbert” device appeared. I won’t tell you the serial number as that kind of defeats the object 🙂 I hit “select” and was invited to create a “new user” with options of “credential type” “domain” or “local” – I picked the latter then entered my “Display name” and Windows user name. As you can probably tell, at this point I was flying completely blind.

I was then asked for my Windows password – which of course I could not remember as I tend to log in automatically (you may be able to tell I’m not THAT security minded). I was invited to create a PIN number. I did that – and lo – a new user was created.

I could have kept going at this point, being asked to create more users but as there is only me – I stopped. The screen showed that there was now a new user and that my PC was unlocked – just as well, really. So far, so good.

Signal strenth of the HALBERT token

I’m not cheating here, I really know very little about security but this was blatantly obvious. I moved the token away from my PC and by the time it was 3 metres away the signal quality was showing orange – indicating I was getting close to losing access to my PC. By 5 metres the signal quality was showing red – well below the minimum – and yet I was still typing as you can see. I hit “Connect token”. I clicked on that and was then asked to enter my PIN – both before and after doing that, I could STILL type this blog…. the next message said “move your token closer to the computer” but as you can see I could still access the computer.

So next, I reset my PC – which came up exactly as normal without my password.

I’m beginning to think I might not succeed in the security sector 🙂 I’m just waiting for the first of you to crucify me in the comments… very soon I will complete this blog entry OR permanently lock myself out of my PC 🙂 For now, for those who are security minded, particularly in business – I have provided links for you to read all about this interesting product (at the top of the blog entry).

November 11, 2020

Here is why this unit has to go to a good home (or the skip)… the Halbert has been sitting on my office shelf no more than 1 metre away from me, since I started this article back in July 15, 2020. It has done nothing but mind it’s own business. a few days ago I started to hear a high pitched sound maybe once a minute. frequency was not a million miles from that of the (very mild) tinnitus from which I suffer (though suffer is too strong a word).

As such, despite several attempts I could not actually narrow down where the sound was coming from. My wife kindly weighed in and started to listen. We tried turning off mobile phones and other high-tech kit in sequence. I racked my brains – could any of my extensive tech kit have intenal beepers I’m unaware of?

After MUCH wasted time, she announced that the sound had to be from the Halbert (not knowing what it was – just a good guess). Seconds later with the Untethered Labs product now in my hand I noted a green flash at the same time as the beep. A quick check of the CR2450 3V battery confirmed it…. 2.7v – a battery warning. I put in the spare battery and 60 minutes later, no beeps – freedom at last.

But this raises a valid point. The beep is clearly too quiet for anyone but a teenager to clearly distinquish immediately (and therefore pointless in a typical office with all manner of electronic background noises) – but audible enough to be a nuisance to anyone busy concentrating. As these CR2450 batteries are not really commonly available, at least here in rural Spain (unlike the CR2025 and CR2032 which are pretty much universally available everywhere I’ve visited in Europe and the USA) – had it not been for the spare I would have been stuck with an utterly usless gadget.

As for the totally unmarked WiFi dongles (see top photo) – despite keeping everything in one place, one of the dongles is missing – after a few months that was to be expected – I probably had it plugged into the PC at one point to test the Halbert. Now, do I really want to go checking all my ancient spare Chinese unmarked dongles to look for the right one? And do I want that annoying beep returning in just another few months?

In both cases, No.