IBM's business workhorse notebook gets a fingerprint reader and an upgraded suite of security tools. We take a first look.
IBM's 'thin-and-light' ThinkPad T42 already offers one of the most complete security solutions available on a notebook. However, this has now been boosted with the addition of on-the-fly hard disk encryption, upgrades to the ThinkVantage Technologies suite, and an integrated fingerprint sensor. Last week we had a sneak preview of IBM's new biometric ThinkPad, which will be available from 19 October, starting at £1,300 (ex. VAT).
New to the ThinkPad T42's software bundle is SafeGuard Easy, from partner Utimaco Safeware, which protects your data against loss or theft by providing hard disk encryption on the fly. This operates in the background, and is all but transparent, having a negligible impact on I/O performance, according to IBM.
SafeGuard Easy is fully tested for compatibility with Rescue and Recovery, which is part of IBM's ThinkVantage Technologies suite. Rescue and Recovery provides straightforward backup and restore of hard disk images, before the OS has booted if necessary. Version 2.0 adds what IBM calls 'Antidote', which allows IT managers to deploy fixes, patches and updates to a pre-boot-accessible mailbox, from where users can apply them before rebooting.
Other ThinkVantage upgrades include version 5.4 of IBM's Client Security Sofware (CSS), which is now available preloaded on the ThinkPad 42. As well as supporting the new fingerprint sensor, CSS 5.4 allows complex pass-phrases to be used instead or in tandem.
As before, wireless connectivity is managed via the Access Connections tool, which is upgraded to support the fingerprint reader and new wireless LAN technology such as IBM's new 802.11a/b/g adapter, the 802.11i Advance Encryption Standard and 802.1x authentication protocols. The fingerprint reader, Access Connections and CSS 5.4's Password Manager should provide a convenient alternative to typed user IDs and passwords for accessing a range of network and online services in a variety of locations.
The fingerprint sensor itself is a swipe-type unit, located on the right-hand side of the wrist-rest, just below the arrow keys. Scans take a few seconds, matching the pattern of electrical resistance on the fingerprint's ridges and furrows to a stored template. The sensor itself can store up to 21 templates for pre-boot matching, and there's no limit to the number of templates for Windows or network users.
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