One Laptop per Governor

It seems that someone is sending free laptops to US Governors (Hat tip: Schneier). The FBI is worried that they contain malware:

According to sources familiar with the investigation, other states have been targeted too, with HP laptops mysteriously ordered for officials in 10 states. Four of the orders were delivered, while the remaining six were intercepted, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

The West Virginia laptops were delivered to the governor’s office several weeks ago, prompting state officials to contact police, according to Kyle Schafer, the state’s chief technology officer. “We were notified by the governor’s office that they had received the laptops and they had not ordered them,” he said. “We checked our records and we had not ordered them.”

State officials in Vermont told him they’ve received similar unsolicited orders, Schafer said. Representatives from that state could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Schafer doesn’t know what’s on the laptops, but he handed them over to the authorities. “Our expectation is that this is not a gesture of good will,” he said. “People don’t just send you five laptops for no good reason.”

A couple of random thoughts:

  1. If government really does provide value for people, why wouldn’t some public-spirited citizen send in a few laptops. Maybe they thought Governors’ IT budgets were too small and wanted to help out. People give to charity, why not government. If there’s “no good reason” to donate resources to government, is there any good reason for it to exist at all?
  2. I declare the future to have officially arrived at the time when the cost of a computer is less than the discounted value of future earnings from malware installed on that computer. Of course, consumers will recognize this and either avoid free computers (if the disutility of malware exceeds the full cost of a computer) or demand additional compensation (if not). Either way, I predict malware-producers will attempt to pass off infected computers as clean. It’s easier to bundle a good and a bad if consumer don’t know they’re getting a bad. Perhaps we’ll see lots of laptops left in places where they can be easily-stolen? Knockoffs of premium (clean) products sold cheaply on the pretense of being used, stolen or otherwise undesirable? I can’t wait to find out.

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