The addition of a 3G “kill switch” for Intel is just the latest evolution in its hardware-based anti theft technology and has been in the works for months. Intel already offers customers the ability to disable lost or stolen devices via LAN, wirless LAN and VPN connection. However, those methods require a lost or stolen device to be connected directly to the Internet first. The 3G poison pill feature would allow technicians to trigger one or more security features so long as the stolen or lost device checked in with a 3G tower. Options include disabling access to encrypted data by deliting an encryption key stored in the chipset, disabling the laptop by blocking the boot process or both,according to Intel documentation. (PDF)
Features to remotely disable or “wipe” sensitive data from mobile devices have become common in the world of mobile phones. The latest generation of operating systems from Google, Apple, Microsoft and others all support so-called “remote wipe” features that allow organizations to clear a lost or stolen device of sensitive data. Apple’s IOS, for example, introduced a remote wipe feature with Version 2.0 in 2008. More recent updates have expanded on that. Version 3.0 of IOS, which powers both iPhones and iPads, added the ability to locate lost devices using Apple’s MobileMe service and, if necessary, remotely disable them. In Intel’s case, though, the term “poison pill” may be misleading, however, as Intel’s Anti Theft features also allow users to re-enable the device after the anti-theft features have been enabled.
Intel has made security a key investment area, as the company prepares for a post-PC world in which “pro-sumer” mobile devices running its processors increasingly operate outside of corporate firewall, carry a mixture of personal and corporate data and leverage both WiFi and 3G connections for Internet connectivity, voice, video and more. In August, Intel purchased anti malware firm McAfee for $7.68b in a surprise move. Intel said that it was interested in baking security deeper into its hardware and avoid the traditional performance slow downs that security software produces.
The Sandy Bridge chip is the successor to the Nehalem architecture and is already being distributed to Intel OEMs. The anti theft features are just one improvement on the latest generation processors, along with improved performance, a boost in the capabilities of integrated graphics features.