To ward off physical hacking, HP is adding a built-in privacy filter to some of its business laptops.
Hacking fears keep many up at night, worried about everything from malware to phishing. But it's easy to overlook the most primitive form of hacking, simply eyeballing someone's computer screen while they enter passwords or read confidential material. If you've ever sat in a crowded coffee shop or used a laptop on a plane with someone seated in the row behind you, it could have already happened to you.
A simple privacy filter, which makes your screen near-impossible to read from a side angle, is a common enough solution, but requires you to carry around a big floppy rectangle of filter material. It also often makes your screen harder to read, even if you're directly in front of it.
To make it easier to guard against prying eyes, HP is adding what it calls the world's only integrated PC privacy screen to a pair of professional laptops, the HP EliteBook 840 and 1040. Developed using technology from 3M, this is a polarized privacy filter, embedded in the screen itself, and it can be turned off and on at will.
When it's off, the laptop screen looks as bright and clear as normal. Hit the Function+F2 keyboard combo, and the privacy filter turns on. The direct view is slightly dimmer, as if you had a separate filter placed over the screen, but from the side, the screen is nearly completely blocked out.
These two EliteBook models are the first to add this new feature, which will be available as an option in September, but it's something that could definitely come to more laptops in the future.