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Intel touts anti-theft tech for laptops

Notebooks won't run for Burglar Bill

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IDF Intel today announced an initiative it hopes will make it much less desirable for criminals to steal laptops. The aim is to build the ability to lock down a machine's storage - and possible even the processor itself - if it's pinched.

Intel Anti-Theft Technology (ATT) isn't yet ready for incorporation into new machines, but with research showing that even consumers now rate data protection second only to performance among the list of desirable attributes new laptops should possess, the chip giant clearly thinks it's time to get moving on this issue.

Because it's early days for the technology, precise details are slim - Intel's Mobility Group chief, Dadi Perlmutter, today could only give a very broad overview of ATT. However, the initiative will seek to put in place hardware within the system to disable laptops booted without authorisation and to prevent access to stored information.

Hard disks with on-board data encryption already exist, but Intel clearly hopes to encourage more storage vendors to do so, and to add the technology to solid-state drives too.

That secures data but it doesn't discourage theft - encrypted drives can be replaced - so the ability to tie actual system operation into the OS login process or a password entered earlier in the start-up sequence could deter criminals in the first place by making the hardware itself valueless if stolen.

Perlmutter hinted Intel is also looking into incorporating tracking technology into ATT, though that takes the add-on beyond the hardware and into the service provider domain.

Not that Intel is devising ATT on its own. System suppliers Fujitsu Siemens and Lenovo, Bios maker Phoenix and malware basher McAfee are also working on the project, the chip giant said.

The results of their work are expected in Q4, though whether that's in shipping laptops or as a technology computer makers will subsequently be able to adopt remains to be seen. The timing suggests the latter: it's just ahead of the time we'd expect Intel to refresh its Centrino platform following the debut of Centrino 2 - aka 'Montevina' - in May this year.

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