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HP adds built-in privacy screens to EliteBook 1040 and 840

Infrastructure

HP wants to make it easier for business travelers and mobile workers to keep the eyes of looky-loos off their notebook displays. The company added built-in privacy screens to two of its business notebook lines.

Using simple function key commands, users of new versions of the EliteBook 1040 and EliteBook 840 can limit the viewing angles on their displays. The intention is to ensure privacy of potentially sensitive material on-screen while business users are working on airplanes, in coffee shops or in other public venues. HP aims to provide a proprietary replacement to external privacy screen attachments by building privacy technology into its notebooks.

“Visual hacking is clearly a really big threat. It’s something I’ve observed,” said Mike Nash, vice president of product portfolio and customer experience at HP, during a press briefing on the new technology, which has been dubbed Sure View.

With a growing number of people working remotely or on the road, so-called “visual hacking” (translation: someone looked at your screen and saw something they shouldn’t have) is a growing problem. It could mean sensitive corporate information gets leaked. According to Nash, 90 per cent of visual hacking attempts are successful. Frequently, visual hacking is simply an accident.

To date, organizations have employed privacy screen attachments to limit viewing from the side, but Steve Sinclair, vice president of product development for commercial PCs at HP, noted the after-market filters often get dirty, broken or lost. Typically, a business user would go through at least a couple of privacy screen attachments during the lifecycle of the notebook. At $30-$40 a pop, the cost may not be astronomical, but it adds up.

HP Sure View technology, created in conjunction with 3M, is a special film layer on top of the notebook display that can be turned on or off. When on, it reduces 95 per cent of visible light when viewed from an angle. For high-end notebooks, HP expects it to become a standard feature, but for lower-end notebooks, end-customers can expect to pay about $75 as a premium.

“This is a real threat, and it’s amazing to me the amount of money we spend … on endpoint protection and encryption on mobile devices and data protection in the cloud and making sure we’re protecting our identity, yet the easiest way for someone to steal information from you is to look over your shoulder,” Sinclair said.

By hitting F2 on a keyboard, the notebook’s display will enter privacy mode, limiting visibility from the sides. When not needed (such as when the notebook is being used for a presentation around a boardroom table), it can be quickly turned off. According to Sinclair, the display looks great in both normal and privacy modes.

“A lot of engineering went into it to make it as simple as possible,” Sinclair said.

For now, HP Sure View will only be available on EliteBook 1040 and EliteBook 840 notebooks. Sinclair and Nash hinted at future deployment on other notebooks, but it’s unknown when that might happen. Nash noted much interest not only among business users, but also consumers.