Intel, Ericsson Offering Laptop Security Through Text Messaging

Intel and Ericsson are planning to use text messaging to offer better security for laptops that are lost or stolen. Ericsson now plans to integrate Intel's new Anti-Theft PC Protection technology into its mobile broadband modules. This will allow a user or IT department to send an SMS text message to the laptop that will disable the PC and protect stored data. Lenovo and Phoenix Technologies are offering similar capabilities with Lenovo's ThinkPad notebooks.

Intel and Ericsson are planning to use SMS text messages to provide an extra layer of security for laptops that have been lost or stolen.

On Dec. 11, Ericsson announced that it will integrate Intel's new Anti-Theft PC Protection technology into its mobile broadband modules. The modules offer built-in support for HSPA (High-Speed Packet Access) in laptops.

Intel first began talking about its Anti-Theft PC Protection, which is built into the chip set, earlier in 2008. On Dec. 1, Lenovo announced that it would offer the Intel anti-theft technology with its ThinkPad T400 series notebooks. The Intel Anti-Theft PC Protection is offered through the chip maker's Centrino 2 mobile platform and its vPro chip bundle, which makes managing and securing a fleet of PCs easier.

Since more and more laptops are in use now, especially with business users traveling in and out of airports, hardware security has become a major concern. At the same time, a number of companies, including Dell, are looking to offer security features that protect the data as well as the hardware.

Now that the technology from Ericsson and Intel is integrated, a laptop's owner or an IT department can send an SMS (Short Message Service) text message to a notebook that has been reported stolen or missing. Once the text message is received through the mobile broadband module, it is transferred to the Intel Anti-Theft PC Protection technology, which 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 LAN or WLAN to deliver the poison pill.

An IT department can also set security policies so that the Intel technology will kick in if the laptop detects repeated log-in failures or if the PC has been disconnected from the corporate network and central servers for a certain amount of time. Ericsson has also integrated the Intel anti-theft technology with GPS technology that can lead a user back to his or her laptop.

In November, Lenovo and Phoenix Technologies announced that a similar technology that uses SMS text messaging is being incorporated in the firmware of Lenovo's ThinkPads. The November announcement was separate from Lenovo's offer of support for Intel's Anti-Theft PC Protection technology.

Ericsson will begin offering mobile broadband modules that are interoperable with Intel's anti-theft technology in the second half of 2009.