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Catch of the Day: Laptops that take care of themselves
By
October 10, 2001

This year, both the U.S. FBI and the British Defense Ministry revealed that their officers had lost, in total, hundreds of laptop computers, many with sensitive data on them.

Yet most laptop thefts are inside jobs, says the FBI (presumably not the division that made the theft numbers public). The machines are appropriated for the value of the hardware, most likely to be sold or used as personal machines.

I recently talked with Alexander Kesler, president of zTrace Technology, which makes a program that hides in a Windows laptop and sends, to a central service, data about where it is (based on which IP addresses it is using).

That helps recover hardware. For those laptops that are stolen for the value of the data on them (which can be priceless), zTrace has software that hides and encrypts data on a machine unless the user types in a password when the machine boots (there's no prompt for it). Without the password, the protected data simply doesn't appear. This protection works even if the computer never connects to the Internet.

ZTrace has competitors, but I believe the laptop security business is still wide open -- at least the FBI numbers would indicate so.

- Rafe Needleman

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