The PC maker announces security enhancements to its business laptops.

Dell says it has beefed-up the security features on its latest Latitude 'E' family of business notebooks adding functionality such as a contact-less smartcard reader and a secure “vault” facility.

 

At an event in London this week, the PC maker announced a series of new machines ranging from the ultra-portable Dell Latitude E4200, the lightest commercial notebook in the company's history at 1.0kg, to the semi-rugged Latitude E6400 ATG which has been built and tested to meet military standards, the company claimed.

 

As well as pushing design improvements, and battery life of up to 19 hours on some models, Dell is keen to highlight the improvements it has made around security in the Latitude range.

 

These features include the so-called ControlVault functionality which the company describes as “intelligent security sub-processors with embedded non-volatile storage” – essentially a separate storage compartment which lets users store their credentials and security keys away from the main hard drive.

 

Speaking at the launch, Jeff Clarke, Dell product group senior vice president, said that the company was responding to the fact that loss or theft is a fact of life of laptop owners, and users wanted improved security.

 

“What customers really asked for is the idea of a vault, based around non-volatile RAM, and behind a protective boundary, end-user credentials can be stored in an off-line subsystem,” he said.

 

Dell also claims that the Latitude E6500 is the only business laptop available with both a contact-less Smart Card reader and a fingerprint reader that the company says complies with US Federal standards.

 

However despite the security features added to the Latitude range, the company admitted that it does not provide encrypted hard drives as standard on any of the range. Dell's senior product marketing manager Alison Gardner said an encrypted hard drive is available as an extra option. “Not everyone wants to do it, some people choose to go the software route, rather than opting for an encrypted hard drive.”

 

In July, Dell commissioned a report from the US security research organisation the Ponemon Institute which claimed that nearly 400 laptops are lost or go missing at Europe's airports every week. This number does include devices that are misplaced for a short period and then found, but the research showed that 57 percent of the machines which end up in Lost and Found departments are never claimed.

 

“It's staggering to learn that more than 175,000 laptops are lost or go missing in the major European airports every year, with many containing sensitive information that organisations must account for,” said Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder, Ponemon Institute, in a statement. “IT departments must re-evaluate the steps they're taking to protect mobile professionals, the laptops they carry and company data stored on mobile devices.”

 

As well as the new functionality, Dell is promoting its ProSupport Mobility Services, which it claims are designed to help companies protect assets and data. As well as remote tracking, the company also offers a remote data deletion service.

 

“If a machine is stolen, when it next connects to the Internet it will initiate a software gent that will progressively wipe the disc,” explained Craig Routledge, Dell director of managed services. He explained that even if the hard disk is removed from the laptop, the minute it is re-connected to the machine, the data destruction agent will resume its work.