Hardware brands which you trust to run Qubes

Ivy and below Lenovo laptops are killer machines with amazing standards when it comes to manufacturing and really great support. But the argument is not about trusting Lenovo, because you obviously can’t/won’t trust Lenovo.
You trust the “community” of older Lenovo laptops, because that community has formed around quality and extensible laptops that are suitable machines for daily use and for these machines the community has cleared up BIOSes, made replacements and tested them. It’s really ridiculous the amount of modding that has gone to x220 and x230 and how many resources you can find on these compared to any other laptop model. But you don’t trust Lenovo, it could be any Company/Model combo.

On Hardware Brands for the original question, whatever Nitro will make in the future passes my standards and ofc Purism. Olimex also but no support for Qubes.

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A voice of reason.

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This sounds like the beginning of a misleading marketing misdirection.

What was the precise HW backdoor you are taking about? Does it work only if you run Windows upon it? (I mean from the whole stack point of view)
I recall something like that, but it was about an HW backdoor that could be used only by the crappy softwares with the default Windows installation.

Ive been lurking around in here for a while looking for a good/private solution for hardware and ive come to the realization that there is nothing secure out there and never will there be something we can trust.
I have many questions and many theories, all of which id like to share with everyone here.

  1. I read somewhere (in here i think or somewhere else) that there have been new additions of coreboot devs paid/funded by the gov or something to that extent to “contribute” code to the project. Apparently this is why there was a branch-off to libreboot. (correct me if im wrong) And since one would like to use libreboot, apparently it doesnt work with QubesOS. My question here is, how on earth can you even trust coreboot to begin with? This seems to get more complicated and can be a whole thread on its own if you get into it, but nevetherless id like to discuss it.

  2. Im not a fan of using old hardware, i personally like getting newer hardware. Whats the point of using old hardware if you need to use more resources? I currently have a very old Sony vaio i7 laptop. and im getting over-heating issues using Ubuntu, imagine if i were to use QubesOS. Is using old hardware really worth it for you guys using QubesOS even though years are passing and you are missing out on the tech behind AMD’s new Ryzen CPU’s that i would love to take advantage of?

  3. My one theory is around QubesOS itself, relating to hardware as well. Lets assume all hardware is backdoored. Lets also assume we want to use a new PC/Laptop and QubesOS works perfectly, and we wont bother with Coreboot (because of my first 2 questions above).
    Since our MB is backdoored, does this mean that as soon as we boot up and go online, it will immediately activate some kind of beacon to let the three letter agencies know that we are using QubesOS? This has been on my mind lately. Maybe this is a possibility? Maybe we are better off using something like Debian, so we can hide between the many users and not alert someone that we are using a very privacy related OS? Is hiding between the masses a better idea? How do you deal with this knowing that this could be an issue? Has anyone ever thought about this scenario or is it just me?
    Dont get me wrong, i really really want to use QubesOS, thats why im here as ive been using Ubuntu on the laptop like i said and as soon as i open up a second VM, the laptop freezes. If someone can explain if my above concern could be a reality then what is the point of a privacy OS at the end of the day?

  4. ive read from a lot of users in this forum and other places how that if you buy purism, or laptops that are “privacy-ready” that somehow you are safe? This makes me laugh because theres nothing worse than buying a “privacy-ready” laptop or phone. How can one even begin to trust that those devices have not been “hardware honey-potted” by any gov to end up spying on you for sure? I mean, again am i the only one that has thought about this?? or am i being stupid? Why do people on privacy-concious forums think that going “all-in” on buying hardware from a “privacy-concious” company that its the ideal solution to not get tracked? In my opinion thats like literally asking to get caught, “Caught doing what” is irrelevant. The point is that a company could deliberately be placing backdoors for you, or in transit after you buy from online. Anyone’s opinions on this would be great.

  5. I also keep hearing “it depends what your threat model is”. What is this even supposed to mean? Just because my threat model is that i don’t want companies to spy on me and neither to be spied on by people/hackers in general, doesn’t mean that i want a government spying on me or that im ok with it? So to be clear my threat model is to not be spied on from anyone. I understand that this might not be realistic, but if people say that they don’t mind being spied on by the gov is beyond me.

  6. If the 3 letter agencies can see what everyone is doing on their pc regardless of what OS they have because their hardware is backdoored, then howcome they cant find all hackers that become a nusance to them like when the 3 letter agencies keep getting hacked by chinese/koreans/russians? Do you honestly think all hackers have coreboot on their hardware? i hardly think so. Also howcome they dont find all the bad people doing terrible things on tor? The only ones they find are the ones being monitored by the exit nodes. At least thats what i believe.
    And why would they even bother indexing and collecting data from companies like google, microsoft, yahoo, etc if they can already log into our pc’s via IME or AMD’s PSP ??

It feels like ive rendered every privacy solution useless in my post, however its not, it all boils down to hardware. If you can find trusted new hardware that you can use, then everything else can be sorted out.
I realize my post could sound very negative but it is also realistic and id like some clarification/opinions on these things, or what your view points are.

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This is a bit of off-topic here, since this post is explicitly about which brands people choose. You went to the meta level and suggested that there can be just no such brands at all. This is more a topic for a different discussion and probably different forum (because it’s not strictly speaking about Qubes). I am still replying, but I don’t think that this discussion should continue here.

Did you actually read everything above?

It was also discussed:

This is not exactly true. Coreboot contains proprietary blobs which are required to run the CPUs, Libreboot is “pure”, without any blobs (and can’t work on modern CPUs for that reason). The blobs is of corse a problem from a security point of view. See also: Intel ME - real threat for ordinary persons? - #2 by fsflover.

According to many people here, Qubes OS runs fine on all hardware listed here: Community-recommended computers. Fast SSDs and more RAM often help more than faster CPUs.

I feel you and totally agree. However, you have to be realistic with how much effort you can put against the government spying and how few actual improvements it would bring to your security. For this reason, the threat model is not just what you want to achieve but also what you realistically can achieve. If you put the effort to verify all software you run, you can miss, e.g., the threat of Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities and it’s game over™. So try to use your resources carefully, which is why threat modeling is important.

@y3qf5zw0qn:

old hardware

You should realize that most of the CPU performance increases of the last 10 years depend on technology that is disabled in Qubes OS by default for security reasons (speculative execution). Also that most CPUs, most of the time sit around idle waiting for input. So moving that data quickly (or not at all) is advantageous. Hence you might be better off spending your money on a high performance, high quality SSD (they are NOT all the same by a long shot!) and buying as much RAM as you possibly can. Finally, temperature/cooling has effects on CPU performance too and is worth looking into.

laptops that are “privacy-ready” that somehow you are safe?

The idea here is that you can detect tampering. If you don’t trust those companies (something I have a lot of understanding for) then build your laptop yourself. Inspect the hardware yourself, build and flash coreboot/heads yourself. Perfect? No, but as good as it gets for now.

“it depends what your threat model is”

As you concluded: there is no absolute security. Rather the more countermeasures/detection you want to have in place the more expensive (not only money, but also effort/attention/learning) it gets. You could spend your whole life worrying about security 24 hours a day and do nothing else. But you wouldn’t get much done. How much effort are you prepared to put in to defend against what?

If nation states and three letter agencies are part of your threat model, you will have to do a lot: do not use phones of any kind, never sleep in the same place twice, only use cash, avoid public places/ATMs/toll roads, change your appearance daily, don’t make friends, don’t stay in the same place for long, never get drunk, never relax, never trust anyone … sounds fun – right?

Hence a lot of us, who are fortunate enough to be of no substantial interest to the aforementioned entities have made the decision to consider them “residual risk”. The things I actively worry about are mostly my own stupidity, criminals, script kiddies and some low-level forms of corporate espionage. I also try to avoid warrant-less mass surveillance and surveillance capitalism to a reasonable degree.

Your situation may vary. If you fight for human/animal rights and against suppressive regimes or corporations I wish you all the best. If you are just looking to not pay for your entertainment or engage in substance or other forms of abuse … not so much. I might actually root for the other guys then :wink:

I’m in the market to add RAM to a Librem14.

Are there any known hardware attacks exploiting RAM?

Are there any trusted RAM providers in 2021?

afaik, yes, but mostly very old and fixed

What about internal SSDs?
(I’m also in the market to upgrade the internal SSD)

be aware of wear leveling and firmware attack

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Can you substantiate these two attacks? For example, giving some links to their examples?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Online Anonymity | The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Online Anonymity.
i don’t clearly have one for firmware attack

Ah, yeah. I already read that doc. Now I remember the wear leveling, TRIM, discussion in it.

I don’t trust hardware. My choice to use certain hardware often has more to do with where and how I get it than the specific manufacturer.

So I suppose I am more concerned with supply chain attacks and various forms of interdiction than unscrupulous manufacturers per se. I am more concerned about some pimple-faced Geek Squad tech messing with my bootloader or an unscrupulous Amazon worker swapping out the Ledger device or router I purchased than I am about the manufacturer designing backdoors into the equipment.

My preference is to walk in and buy a piece of equipment off the shelf instead of ordering it online. The more random the better. And if ordering it online is the only option, I will look for opportunities to have it ordered from a third party with very few ties to me - mostly just to increase the randomness of the purchase.

The only exceptions are companies who take significant precautions against tampering in transit and/or hardware that is highly configurable (ex. routers with detailed schematics available online that allow me to visually inspect the hardware and install opensource firmware etc.

But at the end of the day, I don’t trust any of it. I just use it. It’s a reluctant, conflicted marriage of sorts.

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Hello everyone, a very interesting and enlightening thread, I am probably way out of my league here but I like to try and contribute, so if my comments are too noob please just ignore them :slight_smile:

I think that most of the people in here fall into the same category as myself, being just average users that value privacy and don’t like the thought of being spied on.
It seems clear that one may never be able to fully trust hardware or software for total security, so I would think that maybe more important than trying to find the perfect impenetrable hardware/software solution, would be the practices one is using when online and connecting to the internet, not drawing attention to yourself or giving away personal data.

Also most of us these days have more than one computer at home, I have thought for some time that the best security for protecting data is simply having no personal information on your online computer at all.
By this I mean having one computer that connects to the internet for all purposes, with no files or personal information of any kind on it.
On another computer all of your files and data are stored and this computer does not connect to the internet, even the ‘three letter organizations’ cannot hack into a computer that does not connect to the internet.

I personally love Qubes and don’t fully trust any hardware, and will continue to use it as my OS for online use, I store all of my flies and data on a separate computer that I do not (or at least very rarely - for updates) connect to the internet.

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there still problem, they can draw quite accurately some of your personal info using your online activity

remember human mistake and malware (similar to stuxnet)

that can be a point for failure, but there no workaround for this

Be careful not to assume too much. There are at least a dozen ways that data can be snooped on and exfiltrated from computers with no network connection. The screen emits radio signals that can be reconstructed at long distances. Data can leak into the ground line and be read on power lines. Your computer emits ultra high frequency sounds when typing certain keys which can be listened in on from a distance using a variety of methods, from lasers to more conventional bugs. It’s possible to manipulate display brightness and fan speed to interpolate certain kinds of data. It’s even possible to turn RAM into a freaking WIFI transmitter. So, generally speaking, radio waves, light, sound and electrical current can all be used to compromise a device at a distance. Old school PS/2 connectors can leak keystroke data into the ground pin and right through your power lines. So even “safe” alternatives to USB aren’t 100% safe.

And before you think that it would take a three letter agency to implement those exploits, keep in mind that we are in the age of Blackwater and pay-for-hire goons who gain access to all kinds of fun toys. [Bad] contractors. Like the guys who remodeled your bathroom with that fancy laser cutter. Except these guys have lasers that can turn your house windows or light bulbs into microphone membranes. The only difference is the guy who fixed your bathroom likely still has his sense of morality and ethics intact.

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example here

umm, please edit your post