About Steinworks

Founded by Caleb Stein, Steinworks Computers aims to make freedom and privacy respecting computing a viable option for everyone, not just for those who are tech-inclined. We do this by modifying Lenovo Thinkpad x230 laptops to remove the included hardware backdoors and vulnerabilities, then we preload each system with easy-to-use, privacy respecting software. We also provide support and instruction for those who are interested in taking back control of their digital lives.


What is coreboot?

coreboot is a free software replacement for the BIOS and UEFI firmware in modern computers. The BIOS or UEFI handle the initialization of the hardware in the computer before handing control off to the operating system. BIOS is an older system and is much more basic compared to UEFI, which is an entire operating system in itself including networking access. Both BIOS and UEFI are typically proprietary software, and come along with the issues that that entails.

Free software? Proprietary software?

Free software has nothing to do with price and everything to do with freedom! It means that you, the user, are free to study and analyze the source code, and to make modifications as you desire. It then means that you may distribute your modifications for the benefit of anyone else who may be using that software. A practical effect of this is that it is much more difficult for a bad actor to embed spyware into their software, since it would be likely discovered by someone else reviewing the code, assuming the software project is big enough. That person then would be free to redistribute their own version of the software without the spyware included. You can learn more here.

Proprietary software, on the other hand, uses license terms to restrict your freedoms. No one except for the developers are allowed access to view the source code of the software, or to make their own changes. This makes things like surveillance or spyware much easier to embed in the software, as it is often difficult to discover or remove such things without violating the license terms.

The Intel Management Engine

All modern computers contain a co-processor, which on Intel systems is called the Intel Management Engine (ME). This co-processor runs its own proprietary operating system and has access to all the hardware, networking, and files on your computer. It is a complete black box with full access to everything. Needless to say, this is a huge security and privacy risk. Unfortunately, it is only possible to completely remove this on very old (c. 2008) systems, as after that the Intel ME became integral to the boot process. In other words, the system will not turn on without this spyware present. There are fortunately mitigations, though, and through modification of the chips on the computer's motherboard containing the Intel ME software, it is possible to neuter the ME to the point where it is only used to allow the initial boot to succeed, but has its network access disabled and is then itself disabled once the operating system takes over. All Steinworks computers come with this modification.