RealTime IT News

Intel, Ericsson Aim For Better Laptop Security

There is a growing number of ways to deal with a lost laptop, the most common of which is to send a kill signal as soon as it connects to the Internet, But one inherent flaw in that mechanism is the thief might not sign on.

"Most security today has the weakness of being software-based and reactive," George Thangadurai, director of Intel's Strategy and Platform Planning Group, and general manager of the company's Anti-Theft Program told InternetNews.com.

"Unless a stolen notebook comes on the Internet, you can't send a kill message. Intel's anti-theft technology has proactive policies you can set, such as a certain number of login failures, a time period when it does not communicate with a server, or if it's not where it should be."

It can also send a message even when the laptop is off. So Intel and Ericsson, the Swedish cell phone giant, are teaming to provide a way to get a kill message to a lost laptop regardless of whether it's on or off. The two are working on interoperability between the Ericsson Mobile Broadband Modules and Intel Anti-Theft PC Protection Technology.

This collaboration will allow an IT manager to send a message via SMS , the protocol used in text messaging, to the mobile broadband module inside the notebook, which will activate the Intel anti-theft function inside the laptop. The function is programmable to take any of a number of steps, ranging from wiping the hard drive, completely locking down the computer, or totally locking it out and the only way it can be accessed is by a token.

Like a cell phone, laptops with this technology will always be sniffing the network for messages, and they will use the cellular network, which is considerably more built out than any free Wi-Fi or wireless broadband networks.

Additional alerts for missing notebooks

Intel does not provide a Global Positioning System (GPS), but the Ericsson mobile broadband module does have it, so it can send location data to a central server. In addition to finding the laptop, it can also send out an alert when the notebook is moved outside a pre-defined area.

The Intel technology operates at the processor level, not software, making it extremely secure and hard to crack, said Thangadurai. However, there is still one weakness: the hard drive's contents can still be accessed if it's taken out of the computer and hooked up to another PC. To protect the data, he recommends an encrypting hard drive of some sort.

Thangadurai said other telcom partners are expected to make similar offerings, but he declined to name names. The combined platform will be available in the second half of next year.