Gateway puts a trace on laptops

Antitheft technology for notebooks includes a LoJack-style tracker and a controversial security chip.

Gateway is plugging two security devices into its machines, including a LoJack-style technology to help customers track down lost or stolen laptops.

The Mobile Theft Protection product is now available in Gateway's M250, M460 and M680 notebooks, the PC maker said on Tuesday. The hardware, which uses technology from Absolute Software's Computrace, promises to locate computers that have gone astray. It includes a so-called Data Delete feature that removes sensitive personal or corporate data by remote control.

Once the device is activated, Absolute guarantees the recovery of the computer. If the laptop is not recovered within 60 days, the customer may be eligible for a refund of up to $1,000.

The device is preinstalled in the laptops, but customers will need to add $99 to the price of the computer to activate the coverage for three years. The M250, M460 and M680 laptops start at about $700, $965 and $1,200 respectively, after rebate.

Gateway's other embedded security feature, now available for notebooks, is the industry's latest (and controversial) hardware security standard--Trusted Platform Module version 1.2. The technology is already included in Gateway's E-series desktop computers.

Gateway said the TPM chip helps encrypt data and manage passwords. The hardware includes secure authentication software to protect corporate networks by storing keys, passwords and digital certificates on the processor, the computer maker said.

However, critics have said a TPM could compromise the privacy of a computer user because there's an identifying number built into the chip. The technology could also restrict the use of some digital media by enforcing digital-rights management technologies. Developers of products for Apple Computer machines have recently begun to learn about the protection chip firsthand .

The Mobile Theft Protection device and the TPM chip represent a few of the ways Gateway is looking to better protect laptop computers . Earlier this month, the company revised its contract with Symantec to begin preinstalling a higher grade of antivirus software in its machines.

Laptop theft is on the rise. The cost of all the notebooks lost or stolen in 2004 increased to more than $6.7 million, according to the CSI/FBI Computer Crime and Security Survey.

Other PC makers are using various combinations of hardware and software to secure desktops and laptops. Lenovo, for example, sells its ThinkPad T42 with a biometric reader. Microsoft coordinated with chipmakers Intel and AMD for its last Windows software security update, known as SP2, to prevent viruses from overloading a PC with too much information.

 

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