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Foil laptop thieves with a text message

Now there's an extra security option for Montevina-based Lenovo notebooks with encrypted hard drives.

Culture

This article was corrected at 2 p.m. PT to reflect the proper spelling of Cannady's name.

An SMS message can be a powerful thing when it comes to laptop security.

There are a considerable number of security measures available to companies to protect their valuable data on employee hard drives. Self-encrypting hard drives and security software are touted as the latest solutions, but the PC has to be turned off for the data to be secured by encryption. If a notebook is stolen while in hibernation mode, or even while the operating system is fully loaded, there's a higher risk of data being exposed.

That's where Lenovo says its new text-message-based remote disable software comes in. Using Phoenix Technologies' system, any Montevina-based Lenovo machine that's equipped with WWAN (wireless wide area network) can be paired with a cell phone.

If a laptop is stolen, the phone that's paired with it can send a text message instantly with some predetermined message, like "Shut down computer" or "At my signal, unleash hell." Whatever you want, really.

The computer will shut down, and from there the self-encrypting hard drive will take over to lock down the computer's data.

"It's becoming better understood that having the encryption is not necessarily enough," said Stacy Cannady, Lenovo's product manager for security. "This is kind of like a morning-after pill, I guess."

Remote disable is free for Lenovo customers with Montevina-based laptops through a BIOS (basic input/output system) update from Lenovo sometime during the next one to three months.

Free is good especially since it's not a service Lenovo can entirely guarantee itself. The success of the remote disable command depends entirely on the viability of the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) wireless network the computer is connected to at the time and that network's ability to receive SMS messages.

In other words, if the computer is out of cellular range, then you're out of luck.

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