Intel showed off an upcoming laptop anti-theft technology at the IDF. TG Daily reports the "Kill Pill" technology can track, disable and even scramble the data on notebooks:
The Kill Pill technology resides on the motherboard and is an extension of the company’s commercial vPro management platform. Laptops are cataloged and managed through a web app and the keynote audience was shown the management screen listing laptops belonging to Perlmutter, Gelsinger and Justine Rattner. Dadi’s and his assistant were talking about the tracking features of the anti-theft technology when a ninja ran up, grabbed the laptop and exited the stage.
Unfazed, Dadi and company kept talking. The laptops are tracked through GPS and IP addresses. After the laptop is found, the owner or IT team can take over the webcam and grab a quick shot of the bad guy – of course the laptop has to be connected to the Internet to send all this information back to home base.
According to the GPS coordinates, the laptop hadn’t left the Moscone Convention Center yet and Dadi’s assistant then took the webcam shot – a suspicious sunglass-wearing Pat Gelsinger was behind the keyboard. “I wanted to get some management tips,” Gelsinger shouted back.
Ok so tracking the laptop and taking a webcam pic of the criminal is one thing, but what about protecting your data? The Intel Kill Pill can send a signal that scrambles the data on the drive, presumably through the deletion of encryption keys on the motherboard. In a question and answer session after the keynote, Intel executives explained that technology resides on the motherboard, so formatting the drive won’t help the criminal. This implies that all data is encrypted as it is written to the drive and the decryption keys reside on the motherboard (BIOS and EEPROM). Sending the Kill Pill signal doesn’t actually blow away the data, but instead blasts the decryption key from the computer. Think of it as throwing away the key to a very secure vault.
Permanent “deletion” of data can be a very bad thing because many laptops are only temporarily lost. Stressed travelers leave them on airplanes, conveyor belts and taxis only to recover them after a few minutes or days. Thankfully, the Kill Pill effect can be easily recovered by using the management console to send the decryption keys back to the laptop.