Ericsson & Intel Can Remotely Lock Laptops

Ericsson and Intel have announced that they are collaborating on a way to keep your laptop's contents safe when your laptop goes MIA. Using Intel's Anti-Theft Technology - PC Protection (Intel AT-p) and Ericsson's Mobile Broadband (HSPA) modules, lost or stolen laptops cans be remotely "locked."

Similar to Lenovo's recently announced Lockdown Now PC technology, the Ericsson-Intel technology uses SMS messages sent directly to a laptop's mobile broadband chip. Once the chip receives the lock-down message, it passes it to the Intel AT-p function, which is integrated into Intel's Centrino 2 with vPro technology platform.

"When a loss or theft is detected, Intel Anti-Theft PC Protection technology can lock the laptop, rendering it useless, by blocking the boot process, and when working in conjunction with third-party encryption hardware or software can protect data by deleting cryptographic keys or similar essential code for decryption."

Unlike Lenovo's anti-theft solution, the Ericsson module includes GPS functionality. The example that Ericsson uses in its press release as to how the integrated GPS could be utilized is that if a laptop is moved outside of a pre-defined area (a "geo-fence"), the laptop would automatically lock itself down. We image that the GPS could also be used to allow law enforcement to track down the location of stolen laptops as well. Of course, for the GPS function to actually work, the laptop would have to be outdoors or near a window with a southern exposure; so while the GPS functionality is a nice added value, its practical usage is somewhat limited. Once a laptop is recovered, another SMS message can be sent to the laptop to unlock it.

One potential limitation to these designs is that the laptops have to be powered on in order to receive the SMS "kill" message. So if an enterprising thief is aware of the anti-theft technology, he might be able to disable the remote functionality simply by removing or disabling the broadband module. Therefore, if you are concerned about your data falling into the wrong hands, you'd be well advised to also password protect your laptop in both hardware and software, encrypt the hard drive, and even set up a policy that locks the laptop after repeated failed log-in attempts. Ericsson states that its anti-theft technology will be available in Centrino 2-based laptops by the second half of 2009.