Intel Looks to Lock Down Laptops

New anti-theft technology from Intel aims to protect both data and hardware.

Intel, which is looking to add an additional layer of security for laptops, will introduce what company executives are calling anti-theft technology later in 2008.

Although Intel is not revealing many of the details behind its new anti-theft product, the technology will work with the company's chip sets and firmware to help protect the notebook in case of theft.

The anti-theft technology is different from Intel's vPro platform-a set of management and security features for PCs that combines the company's processors and third-party software-but it will provide an extra layer of protection for IT managers wishing to secure laptops, said Anand Pashupathy, director of initiative planning for Intel's Mobile Products Group.

While many laptops users worry about losing the actual hardware itself, Pashupathy said others are concerned about what will happen to the data stored on a stolen laptop. The anti-theft technology looks to address both sets of customers.

While Intel and PC vendors will focus on the hardware, the chip maker is also working with a number of ISVs to build software that will help protect both the data and the hardware.

"We are putting in firmware and hardware capabilities that will strengthen the solutions that are already out there in the marketplace," Pashupathy said. "If you look at our list of ISV partners, there are some that will be supporting the data protection aspect of it and then there will be more people focused on the asset protection aspect of it and there will definitely be some melding between the two."

For IT managers, the technology will work with other hard disk drive encryption technology and allow for remote or local management of a laptop if the machine is reported stolen or if there are signs of "nefarious activity," he said.

The capabilities that Intel will include on the chip set will also harden other security features. For example, the technology could require additional user authentication if it detects an irregularity when a laptop is moved from a fixed location, he said.

At the spring Intel Developer Form in Shanghai, China, April 2-3, Intel announced that it has signed up several partners for the new technology, including Fujitsu Siemens Computers, Lenovo, McAfee, Absolute Software, Phoenix Technologies and Utimaco Safeware.

Intel expects the technology to catch on with enterprise IT managers when the products first begin appearing in the fourth quarter of 2008, Pashupathy said.

Although the technology will initially appear in laptops, he said other OEMs have approached Intel about installing the anti-theft product in desktops, especially small-form-factor models.

The anti-theft technology will not be included in Intel's upcoming Centrino 2 platform, formerly code-named Montevina, which will enter the laptop market in June.