Security software talks back to thieves

A security software company has taken a new approach to stolen laptops by designing software that can blast a "this computer is stolen!" voice message at light-fingered thieves.

The program called Retriever, from Front Door Software Corporation, displays owner information as soon as a computer is booted, along with the login dialogue box. If the laptop is feared stolen, a message can be activated remotely over the internet.

The main concept behind the software is that simply by displaying owner information, with full details on how to contact them, most individuals will be honest and return a laptop if found. On its website the company claimed that this data will increase chances of recovery from three per cent to 97 per cent, though it provides no evidence for this.

Once a user finds that the laptop is stolen, the user logs into their online account and can then send a message to the computer, or even get it to play a message out loud repeatedly at intervals from either five minutes to every four hours. A lockdown code can be sent to prevent its use, and owners can even try and track the laptop using an IP location feature.

This software is one of many attempts from technology companies to protect laptops. At the end of last year, Lenovo revealed a system that would remotely deactivate laptops via an SMS message, while Intel announced that it was working with Ericsson on putting a kill switch inside' laptops.

In the second half of last year, thousands of mobile and laptops were left in the back of London taxis.

"I think software such as this has some place but what are you protecting," said Jay Heiser, research vice president at Gartner. "A used laptop is of minor importance, it's the data that's the important and if it's the only copy, then shame on you."

"Desktops [and laptops] are like dogs and pocket knives. You shouldn't expect to go round your entire career with the same one."

Benny Har-Even

Benny Har-Even is a twenty-year stalwart of technology journalism who is passionate about all areas of the industry, but telecoms and mobile and home entertainment are among his chief interests. He has written for many of the leading tech publications in the UK, such as PC Pro and Wired, and previously held the position of technology editor at ITPro before regularly contributing as a freelancer.

Known affectionately as a ‘geek’ to his friends, his passion has seen him land opportunities to speak about technology on BBC television broadcasts, as well as a number of speaking engagements at industry events.