Intel showed off a new anti-theft technology at the IDF this week. The Intel Anti-Theft Technology (ATT) is a hardware-based solution designed to render stolen notebooks unbootable:
The technology would involve placing a chip in the machine that would prevent it from booting without the owner's permission, Intel Mobility Group chief Dadi Perlmutter told The Register, although he declined to go into much more detail. He also indicated that ATT might one day incorporate tracking technology so that users might eventually be able to get their hardware back.
Intel isn't working on this initiative alone, though. In fact, a number of third parties announced today that they were partnering up with Intel to support ATT, such as Absolute Software Corporation (creators of firmware-based data protection/tracking solutions), BIOS maker Phoenix, and Utimaco (a data security company), to name a few. Intel also says that McAfee is on board, as well as manufacturers like Lenovo and Fujitsu.
ATT differs from current disk encryption technology because it would render the laptop useless, even if the hard drive is replaced. While this may not help the victim get the laptop back (unless it involves the aforementioned tracking technology), if widely adopted, ATT could deter thieves from stealing laptops in the first place if all they would end up with is an inoperable chunk of plastic and metal. Of course, if users want their data to be secure and for the laptop to be unbootable, it's probably wise to employ both ATT and some sort of disk encryption technology, in case the hard drive is removed and placed in another machine.
The technology will be ready in Q4 2008 but it may take a while until notebook makers will adopt this technology.