Laptops

Intel unveils new remote lock-out technology for stolen laptops

At the Intel Developer Forum in Shanghai, China, this week, the world's leading chipmaker introduced the Intel Anti-Theft Technology, which will be integrated into the Active Management Technology suite that is part of Intel's vPro systems for businesses. The new anti-theft component will allow IT departments to remotely lock out a lost or stolen laptop computer.

At the Intel Developer Forum in Shanghai, China, this week, the world's leading chipmaker introduced the Intel Anti-Theft Technology, which will be integrated into the Active Management Technology suite that is part of Intel's vPro systems for businesses. The new anti-theft component will allow IT departments to remotely lock out a lost or stolen laptop computer.

This is essentially an upgrade to the Intel vPro technology -- introduced in 2006 -- which is aimed at providing IT departments in large organizations with improved provisioning, security, and troubleshooting of desktop and laptop PCs by providing comprehensive manageability at the chipset level. Intel likes to quote a 2007 EDS case study in which vPro was able to help IT reduce desk-side visits by 56 percent.

However, in practice, Intel still needs hardware makers such as Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard and manageability software vendors such as LANDesk and Altiris to get on board and provide solutions to implement the management capabilities of vPro.

In a presentation at IDF Shanghai, Dadi Perlmutter, executive vice president of Intel's Mobility Group, said, "I'm very happy to announce the Intel Anti-Theft Technology, which Intel is working together with the industry notebook OEMs and all the big names of service providers and security software, ISVs, to make sure that we have a solution that really works on asset and data defense. One of the biggest worries is that if I lose my notebook, if it's been stolen, that the notebook and the data is not going to be maliciously used by people who I don't want to use the data on my notebook... We are putting a lot of effort into management of corporate clients."

Perlmutter explained that the Intel Anti-Theft Technology will "lock the system, lock the disk, so people cannot be maliciously using and getting the data." The new technology will be available in the fourth quarter of 2008. It's unclear whether this will only be available in new vPro systems or if there will be a BIOS/firmware upgrade to current vPro systems.

Bottom line for IT leaders

Lost and stolen laptops remain a huge security and privacy risk. Improved remote-lock capabilities such as the Intel Anti-Theft Technology can be a valuable tool to help protect sensitive data. However, it's likely that you won't see real world solutions using this technology until 2009. Also keep in mind that Intel can't do this alone. If you want this technology, you should push your hardware vendor and your systems management software provider to implement it.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

11 comments
pbg_61
pbg_61

OK now you know the IP address of the system and from this you lock it down remotely but you should also be able to track the person down if you do not. But instead you lock the user out preventing them from connecting to the internet so you can track the system, down nice idea. So now EBay gets a flood of parts so the cost of replacement parts goes down which helps all. Now who does not believe some hacker isn't going to come up with an app that will turn it off just by booting off a cd?

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

If anybody ever stole your computer and went on the Internet the FBI would be alerted and the criminals would be arrested.Too many virus in the way.

ect
ect

If someone is interested in your data, this vPro technology is pointless. A 2.5" Hard Drive Enclosure only cost average US$8.99 on most website. If the thief takes the hard drive out of the laptop and get rid of the laptop and put this drive in an external enclosure, do you think the data is secure? So we need the hard drive manufactures onboard with this vPro technology not just Intel.

Ajax4Hire
Ajax4Hire

As a laptop owner this sounds great untill "NEWS Today: a Social-Engineered Virus traced back to Darfur is using the Intel Hardware Lock to hold millions of Laptops hostage. Infected users are directed to deposit $100 to a Paypal account to unlock." To make this more likely to happen, say "it can't happen"

nixon_public
nixon_public

Any sort of software to "lock out" (Whatever that may actually mean) the computer will require an internet connection to let it know that the computer has indeed been stolen. I doubt many data thieves would boot the computer up with an internet connection, so unless the computer automatically locks out any time there is no internet connection, it's not going to work. The best HD security I've seen so far has been a BIOS password scheme that IBM is using on some laptops to encrypt the HD controller itself. Basically unless you put in the password, the drive is not recognized. Basically acting like a bad HD. If you put the HD in another non IBM computer, you get the classic non system disk error. And that computers BIOS can't read the HD for the basic track sector head info.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

that will only apply to the high-tech criminals. There are plenty of low-tech criminals that only want to re-sell equipment at a profit, and then you simply never know where your sensitive data could end up.

Litehouse
Litehouse

I was thinking the exact same thing after reading the article title.

bfpower
bfpower

I agree with the negative posts, but I'm trying to be an optimist today. Our department depends on the users to keep the laptops safe. This is really the only way. No information is safe if it is available. Our laptop policy specifies that the users not leave the laptop outside their control (or something like that). If this actually happened, it would be a great safeguard. But who doesn't leave their laptop in the car when they run into the grocery store?

martian
martian

Not to mention that anyone with a live cd of almost any Linux distro can (at the very least) view NTFS partitions. Provided they don't connect to the internet when they do it, the laptop would be at their mercy, even with this technology in place. Reinforces the old adage: "if someone else has access to your laptop, it's no longer yours"

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

In order to activate it, you have to be able to activate it, and if you can activate it, so can someone else.