Intel Arms Lenovo ThinkPad Laptops with New Anti-theft Technology

By Scott Ferguson  |  Posted 2008-12-01

Intel Arms Lenovo ThinkPad Laptops with New Anti-theft Technology

Lenovo is looking to arm its ThinkPad notebooks with new anti-theft technology from Intel that will provide a range of security features to protect data in case a laptop is stolen or lost.

Starting later in December, Lenovo will begin offering Intel's Anti-Theft PC Protection technology with its line of ThinkPad T400 laptops. The Intel anti-theft technology works in conjunction with the new Intel Centrino 2 platform and vPro technology-a chip bundle that is designed to make managing and securing a fleet of PCs easier for an enterprise IT department.

Intel executives first began talking about the new anti-theft offering in April, and Lenovo is the first PC vendor to offer the Intel technology with its laptops.

This is also the second time in a week that Lenovo has offered additional security features for its ThinkPad laptops. On Nov. 24, Lenovo officials said they are now offering users the ability to use an SMS (Short Message Service) text message to disable a notebook that has been stolen or lost.

The Intel anti-theft technology is built into the chip set itself. In the case of the Lenovo laptops, the Intel technology will work with Absolute Software's Computrace tracking and anti-theft software, which is stored in the laptop's firmware and allows an IT department to track where a notebook is at any given time.

With the combination of the Intel technology and Computrace, IT departments can set policies for laptop security. For example, if a ThinkPad is disconnected from a central server for a long period of time or if it detects a certain number of log-in failures, the laptop could be set to shut down.

If a Laptop Is Lost or Stolen


The combination of the two technologies also works if the laptop is reported stolen or lost. When the ThinkPad is then reconnected to the Internet and attempts to reconnect with an enterprise's network, the Intel technology can send a "poison pill" to disable the PC. If the laptop is returned, the user or IT department could restart the laptop using a special password. The Intel anti-theft technology can also encrypt the laptop's hard disk drive.

The Intel technology will work if the laptop's operating system is disabled or if its power is shut off as long as the notebook is connected to an AC power outlet. If the laptop is using battery power, the PC has to be "awake" and connected to a wired or wireless LAN to deliver the poison pill.

If the laptop is outside the firewall, the Intel poison pill will work as long as notebook is connected to a LAN. Right now, the technology can not work with a WWAN (wireless WAN).

The combination of Intel, Lenovo and Absolute Software security technologies is similar to a set of services that Dell began offering earlier in 2008 called ProSupport Mobility Services, which protect data stored on business laptops. One specific Dell service, Remote Data Delete, also delivers a poison pill if a laptop is lost or stolen that will wipe the hard drive clean.

Dell recently sponsored a study by the Ponemon Institute showing that about 12,000 laptops are lost in U.S. airports each week.

Richard Shim, an analyst at IDC, said a number of companies, including Intel and Phoenix Technologies with its FailSafe product, are offering a number of tools to address the concerns of corporate laptop users. Since more and more laptops are in use now, hardware security has become a major concern.

"Security has been something that has been talked about, but we have not seen the rubber hit the road," Shim said. "Now, we are starting to see these new technologies come out that enable security features such as restricting access to a notebook if it has been lost or stolen, encryption to prevent access to this information or in some cases just destroying the data on the system."

While these types of technologies are useful when it comes to preventing the theft of data, Shim said IT department also have to create ways of backing up that data and having access to that data through other means.

While Intel's anti-theft technology is hardware-based, it does require a service provider, such as Absolute Software, to activate. While Lenovo will provide the BIOS update for its ThinkPad T400 laptops to work with the Intel anti-theft technology, Intel and its OEM partners are planning to include the technology as part of the manufacturing process later. Intel Anti-Theft PC Protection will be included with the Lenovo ThinkPad but requires a paid subscription to Absolute Software to work.

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