Laptop wipes self to beat thieves

A UK company has come up with a nifty laptop-protection system that can automatically wipe hard disk data on machines taken from authorised locations.

Sold as a hosted service, Virtuity’s BackStopp server monitors a protected laptop using any medium available, including the Internet, or locally using Wi-Fi or GSM. If a laptop is reported stolen – or even just moved from a designated space - the system can reach out and execute a file deletion routine that clears the laptop of all important data.

For laptops stolen while switched off, the location system can use RFID tags to make a judgement about whether that movement is within allowed parameters. A full log of all deletions is sent back to the service centre once completed.

Its makers even boast that BackStopp can use a webcam, if one is installed, to take pictures of the thieves, sending these back for analysis without the offenders knowing.

"There are millions of laptops out there that contain valuable data. The vast majority are not stolen for their data, but the ultimate recipient will often come across the data and use it for criminal purposes. This solution prevents that illicit use,” said Virtuity’s CTO, Dean Bates.

Data destruction routines met standards set down by the US Department of Defence’s National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, the company said, ensuring that it could not be resurrected. An important aspect of the system is that a thief would not know it was in operation until after data had been wiped, making it extremely hard to circumvent.

BackStopp was designed to be used in conjunction with encryption, and was not therefore a replacement for that form of protection, the company said. The system also protected data such as network and web logins and VPN connections – often data companies forgot to protect - as well as static file data.

Laptop theft is now firmly entrenched as the number one data worry for corporates, with numerous examples of unencrypted data going missing on stolen laptops to embarrass organisations of every ilk in the last year.

Prices for BackStopp start at £10 ($19) per month for each laptop being protected.

This story, "Laptop wipes self to beat thieves" was originally published by

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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