A UK firm has produced a laptop-protection system that will automatically wipe hard disk data on stolen notebooks.

Virtuity’s BackStopp server monitors a protected laptop using any medium available, including the internet, or locally using Wi-Fi or GSM. If a laptop is reported stolen – or even just moved from a designated space - the system can reach out and execute a file deletion routine that clears the laptop of all important data.

For laptops stolen while switched off, the location system can use RFID tags to make a judgment about whether that movement is within allowed parameters. A full log of all deletions is sent back to the service centre once completed.

Its makers even boast that BackStopp can use a webcam, if one is installed, to take pictures of the thieves, sending these back for analysis without the offenders knowing.

"There are millions of laptops out there that contain valuable data. The vast majority are not stolen for their data, but the ultimate recipient will often come across the data and use it for criminal purposes. This solution prevents that illicit use,” said Virtuity’s CTO, Dean Bates.

Data destruction routines met standards set down by the US Department of Defense’s National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, the company said, ensuring that it could not be resurrected. An important aspect of the system is that a thief would not know it was in operation until after data had been wiped, making it extremely hard to circumvent.

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