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05:47 AM

Locking Down Stolen Laptops About to Become Simpler

Mobility offers small and medium businesses a way to improve productivity. One downside is the difficulty in protecting sensitive information if a laptop computer is stolen or --more likely-- left behind as executives scurry from place to place.

Mobility offers small and medium businesses a way to improve productivity. One downside is the difficulty in protecting sensitive information if a laptop computer is stolen or --more likely-- left behind as executives scurry from place to place.As reliance on laptop computer increases, so do the security risks associated with these devices. Laptops taken from Boeing had files that contained the Social Security numbers for about 382,000 employees. The US Department of Veterans Affairs lost a portable computer with the personal information of more than 26 million veterans on its hard drive. A portable stolen from a Tennessee medical center included sensitive patient information. About 500 portable devices were taken from the US Internal Revenue Service during a three year period. In all of these cases, little to nothing was done to protect the information, so to access it, all a crook had to do was boot the system up. Small and medium businesses need to be aware of the problem because their employees may be storing account information or confidential data, such as business or customers credit card numbers, on such devices, so they need to take steps to protect it.

Intel plans to help companies address this problem at the end of the year. At its recent developers conference, the company announced the Intel Anti-Theft Technology, which will debut in the fourth quarter. This new capability will be added to Intel's Active Management Technology, which is part of its Centrino vPro microprocessor, and allow IT managers to remotely access and configure laptops. If a device is lost or stolen, the IT department can basically shut it down, so sensitive data will not fall prey to outside intrusion. Similar solutions have been available from a variety of vendors. Absolute Software, McAfee, and Tometa Software have software solutions that protect confidential information. Lenovo Group, Fujitsu Siemens Computers and Phoenix Technologies have come up with combinations of hardware and software to lock down the devices. The benefit of having Intel take on some of this responsibility is it will come integrated in users mobile systems, so small and medium businesses do not have to take on any additional integration work. Because these companies now rely on laptop computers than ever before, the integration of these features into core capabilities is a welcome sign, one that help them secure sensitive information more easily.

Do many of your users work with laptop systems? What security checks do you have in place to help with this? Do you feel confident that users follow them?

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