Lost Laptops “Phone Home”

Mobile computing, one of the hottest business trends — both big and small — offers many advantages over desktop PCs. The obvious one is that it let’s you be, well, mobile. But mobility can come at a fairly high price, and no, we’re not referring to the price tag. We mean theft. A stolen or lost notebook packs a double punch: the cost of replacing the hardware plus the cost of losing critical business data.

National figures on lost or stolen notebooks vary widely — ranging from a low of 400,000 to a high of 1.2 million per year — depending on whom you ask. Regardless of the actual numbers, it’s all too easy and far too common to forget a laptop in a cab or have it disappear at an airport — never to be seen or heard from again.

A Little Ferry, New Jersey-based company called Synet Electronics offers a software solution called Laptop Anti-Theft that’s designed to act as a tracking system for a stolen PC and to provide data encryption to protect its data.

According to the company, the software installs invisibly on any Windows-based notebook, and it claims that even anti-virus applications cannot detect it.

If someone nabs your notebook and accesses the Internet with it (over a dial-up modem, cable modem, DSL or wireless connection), the software is designed to pinpoint the location by tracing the networks for LAN and WAN configurations and then sends a covert e-mail to an e-mail address the notebook owner previously defined.

Once you have the location, Synet advises that you contact your local police to assist in retrieval.

In addition to its “phone home” capability, Laptop Anti-Theft is also designed to encrypt data on a notebook to keep it safe from unauthorized use. You set a password for accessing data during the setup process.

If a thief enters an incorrect password three times, the software shields the data and flashes a warning message across the notebook’s display screen.

Laptop Anti-Theft sells for $29.99 at stores such as Best Buy and CompUSA. Whether the software works as advertised remains to be seen. Look for a review on SmallBusinessComputing in March.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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