Laptops to get a kill pill

Fujitsu Siemens Computers (FSC) is to offer a security bundle for its customers that will allow them to locate their laptops, as well as protect confidential data, in case of theft.

FSC is offering SystemTrack (tracking software) and DataProtect (data protection software), which will be available from the first quarter of 2009 in selected Lifebook models, and in all business line models of the Esprimo mobile series.

FSC said these products feature technology by Intel and Computrace, but later said in an email that both products were bespoke FSC technology. Exact details of these products are still very thin on the ground, with FSC reluctant to expand beyond the official release, but it says it will be able to provide a greater level of detail in mid December.

What we do know is that when a business or consumer buys either one of the selected laptops, they will be offered the security products as an optional extra. Users simply need to register their laptops with the Computrace Customer Centre, and if their machines are stolen, they can report the theft (online or via telephone) in a similar manner as reporting the loss of a credit or banking card.

According to FSC, SystemTrack then tracks the stolen machine in real-time and detects its location as soon as the device is connected to the Internet or intranet. The device can even be recovered in this way, as three baggage handlers at Tampa International Airport found out to their cost back in April this year.

The theft of laptops (FSC estimates that laptop thefts rose by 84 per cent in 2006 compared to the prior year) has rapidly become a headache for IT managers, who are already contending with securing their email systems and other organisational weak points, where confidential data can leave the company.

With DataProtect, FSC says that confidential data on a laptop can be protected, because if a machine is stolen, the support desk can access the system and save the confidential data centrally in the system – or, if necessary, completely delete such data.

Indeed, the help desk can also render the hardware useless via a so-called “kill pill”. Again, exact details are hard to come by at the moment, but it seems that this kill pill does not entail a low level disk format to wipe the data. “After the system is blocked, the BIOS expects a password, but nothing happens to the data,” FSC said in an email.

If the device is returned to the customer after the kill pill has been activated, users can remove the protection and boot the system again using a special password.

“Dialogue with our customers and our own research have all shown us that data security is one of the major concerns for company IT managers, especially when it comes to implementing a mobility strategy. That is why the reliable protection of sensitive data has topped the list of features for us to add to our business notebooks,” said Paul Hoey, Head of Products and Marketing at FSC in a statement.

“The anti-theft protection solution provides us with an advanced and reliable protection mechanism against theft and data loss,” he added.

There is no word on pricing as of yet on SystemTrack and DataProtect, although it is thought it will be in the $190 region, but this has yet to be confirmed.

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