Targus DEFCON CL Security Cable

targus_cl.jpgThe short story is that I have a copy of the official and confidential cable lock cutting document from the folks at Targus. The longer story begins with a coworker wanted to secure their laptop to their workstation. I fully endorse this diligence and was impressed at their initiative, so I retrieved a combination lock version of the Targus DEFCON laptop security cable from our magical supply room of stuff (MSRS). Against all better geek instincts, I actually read the manual and followed the directions to the letter.

  • Firstly, always change the factory combination that comes with Targus DEFCON CL (they all seem to be 0000, btw).
  • Once you’ve changed the combination, always check that the new combination works BEFORE applying the Targus DEFCON CL to your laptop. I do this and it works fine.
  • Affix or loop the Targus DEFCON CL cable to an solid structure or use the supplied mounting bracket to create one. Luckily, a half-ton, non-disassembling workstation is at hand for this very purpose.
  • Insert lock head into the laptop’s security slot, release lock button and locking teeth will deploy, securely anchoring laptop. All good so far, so let’s detach the Targus DEFCON CL as a final step…

Hmn, it takes the combination, the unlock button depresses, but the locking teeth do not retract sufficiently to release the laptop. Repeated attempts and gentle coercion all fail. Documentation says that in the event of difficulty, call our support line for assistance. Support numbers are provided for every country in the world with a telecommunications system… except the United States. Thanks guys.

A brief trip to the web site provides something resembling a technical support number and a few minutes later, I’m speaking to a help desk in India (you get to know the transfer sounds and standardized scripts after a while).

After an epic struggle to get my name right, the technician begins to read the support script to me. The entirety of its contents can be summarized with the following statements:

  • Are you sure this is one of our products (as opposed to Targoose or similar imitators)?
  • Are you sure you have placed the lock in the laptop’s securing port (no, it’s in my left nostril, that must surely be the problem).
  • Are you sure you are using the correct combination (Ah, finally something relevant, but alas not the problem)?
  • Push down in the release button harder (Ok, its flush, then sub-flush with lock body but still no luck).
  • Pull the lock as hard as you can while depressing the release button as hard as you can. This will probably work… if I brace my foot against the laptop and utterly destroy the securing port of the laptop; a scenario that will NOT please the owner or me.

The technician then suggests that we keep pulling and if the Targus product becomes damaged we can return it for a refund. Instead, I outline another scenario… “If removal damages the laptop, I will not be sending the cable back to Targus, but rather, a laptop repair bill.”

At this point, the technician confides that the locks do not cleanly disengage from ALL laptop’s securing ports. Targus apparently doesn’t feel obligated to list which laptops have this problem in their documentation?

He then offers to email me Targus’s “Extremely Confidential” cutting instructions for their security cables. I am really torn. One part of me would like to do nothing more than take a hacksaw to something, but another part of me is saying “You’ve got to be kidding!”

I finally relent because at the very least, I’ll get to see exactly how Targus things folks should break their products.

Another spelling battle ensues over my work email address but sure enough, about half an hour later I get a pdf from Targus (actually an outsourced help desk as I suspected by the looks of the email). Sure enough, I open the pdf and it is clearly labelled “DEFCON CL Removal Instructions (Extremely Confidential)”. For this reason (along with the fact that it really isn’t all that enlightening), I am sharing it with you.

Targus DEFCON CL Removal Instructions (pdf)

What I Really Did: Depressed the unlock button, tilted the locking teeth mechanism about 20ish degrees to perpendicular to the laptop’s securing port, inserted a very fine tip screwdriver and depressed each of the locking tooth individually, working the head out slow as each tooth was depressed. End result, lock removed without damage and soon to be returned to store.

Bonus Story: The Targus instructions also suggest methodically trying combinations if you’ve forgotten yours (not that this was applicable to my situation). They estimate this will take approximately 45 minutes. I truly flattered by Targus’s estimates of my combination lock spinning speed (there are 10,000 possible options on this particular lock).

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4 Responses

  1. implementor says:

    You didn’t consider explosives first? Tsk, tsk…

  2. Mystech says:

    *gently applies the shaped charge… shaped like a bunny*

  3. Lockpicker says:

    I tried your lock picking method to remove the device from my Lenovo T400. Using a nail file, I depressed the small teeth. They ended up breaking off – looks like they were made of cheap metal luckily. No dammage to laptop, but the DEFCON CL is garbage now.

  4. Mystech says:

    Sorry your lock broke. Overall I’ve not been terribly impressed with this product. Some might say it was garbage BEFORE the picking attempt. 😉

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