Reminder: Public-Facing Systems Need To Be Locked Down

Reminder: Public-Facing Systems Need To Be Locked Down

Whatever the security justification, locked-down computers often cause angst for workers and lead to attempts to work around the blocks. However, I can’t see any reason why machines designed for public use, such as shopping centre kiosks, shouldn’t be effectively locked down to avoid embarrassing scenarios like the one pictured.

The image, from the Australian Newsagency Blog, shows a shopping centre directory display in an advanced state of derp. Unlike the author of the original post, I don’t agree that this proves a manual system would be better; in gigantic shopping centres, printed maps are often too small to readable, and they’re not easy to update. What it demonstrates is that embedded systems need to be set up so that in the event of a crash or a long period of system slowness, they reboot (and perhaps restore) automatically.

When a manual system works better than a computer [Australian Newsagency Blog]


  • I remember driving by a Vodafone store and seeing that one of their screens they use for advertising was showing a nice big blue screen of death.

    Classic Vodafone.

  • It’s pretty much endemic, any kind of shop display tends to be considered non-critical. While it’s possible to build something rock-solid with great failure modes, even big companies just want something cheap that can be fixed by any budget tech…so we end up with thousands of machines that boot to windows and launch a full screen program

    Glancing through a few of my pictures there’s some examples:
    -My local IGA gets a memory error on their specials screen every day at about 4pm that stays until closing. It’s been there a year or two now.
    -A Target store has a TV behind the checkout with ‘ILLEGAL INPUT’ flashing up in huge letters in the middle of the screen. that started about six months ago.
    -The same store has a TV next to the entrance that fails it’s PXE boot regularly.
    -Some kind of food store (I forget which) with a missing windows system file that it wants to load from a CD.
    -A locker-control computer which has frozen…on the windows 98 boot screen
    -An Optus shop here had their new window display installed upside down. It was playing upside-down ads for a few months.
    -An ATM or two that have either partially crashed to the desktop or are displaying a rather different windows program.

    If even ATM manufacturers cant build a completely reliable system, I don’t think shopping centres will.

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