This data will self-destruct

Another month, another slew of governmental data breaches. February 2008’s particular clanger was the laptop that ended up on auction site eBay, complete with CD bearing the label ‘Home Office – highly confidential’.

It is now abundantly clear that whatever security protocols the public sector (and, one might assume, the private sector also) has in place are either ineffective or roundly ignored. One firm is offering a drastic solution: self-destructing data.

The BackStopp system, from UK technology provider Virtuity, constantly monitors the location of a laptop. If the device moves out of a predefined safe zone, the system begins to delete data that has been flagged up as sensitive. And if the owner reports the device as stolen, the PC’s webcam is turned on in order to hopefully photograph the culprit and transmit the image.

Should self-defensive computing catch on, at least one company might be able to claim it was ahead of its time. Dell Computer, which in 2006 had to recall 4.1 million laptops after a certain type of Sony battery was found to (sometimes) spontaneously combust, might just have to adapt that proven feature.

Further reading

Home workers open security breaches Home users’ lax approach to security is seriously undermining corporate defences

Find more stories in the Security & Continuity Briefing Room

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

Related Topics