One of the greatest fears felt by notebook computer owners relates to the easy opportunity these portable wonders provide for theft. Not only would losing your computer to theft cause an extreme disruption of business, but the likelihood of sensitive and confidential information being compromised is very troubling, indeed.

To address both of these issues, I have been testing a rather unique device from Targus, the Defcon MDP. This PCMCIA unit inserts into any standard PC-card slot found on a notebook computer, and offers a surprising array of security features.

Through the use of motion sensors, the MDP will sound "warning chips" whenever the notebook is disturbed. Similar to the way that some auto alarms function, these audible warnings are both an effective deterent and somewhat amusing as well, when you imagine a potential thief's reaction.

Should an individual ignore the initial warnings, then these alerts will continue to escalate and eventually shift into full alarm mode.

At this point, several things occur simultaneously:

When the computer restarts, a 16 character password is required to access the operating system.

Additionally, if the MDP is removed, the data encrypted hard drive (or user specified sections of it) cannot be accessed and Windows will not boot.

If you think that's ingenious, then consider this, the MDP has its own internal rechargeable battery, so even if the thief tries to remove the unit from the PC card slot, the MDP still continues to scream right along.

Should someone realize that your notebook is alarmed, and as a result removes the MDP before trying to steal the computer, then the system will immediately begin an on-screen "shutdown-countdown" complete with an audible "Warning" speech playing through the system's speakers. If the MDP is not reinserted prior to the end of the count-down, the alarm will sound, the system will shutdown and the hard drive will be encrypted.

As a final touch, the MDP can also be turned on and off even while your notebook itself is off. This is accomplished through a series of user-set motions, (left, right, center, for instance) offering theft protection even when your computer is stowed in your briefcase.

While this type of protection obviously won't prevent theft in every situation, it will obviously deter most notebook snatchers when your computer is in a somewhat public setting such as a restaurant, airport or even in your office cubicle. Even if the theft is successful, your system will be unusable and your private data will remain secure.

The only real limitation to the MDP is that it only runs on systems equipped with Windows 98 SE, Me, 2000, or XP.

If you're still not impressed, then consider that the MDP retails for just $99 from - though it would be a must-own security accessory at twice the price.


Copyrighted with all rights reserved by Stephen M. Canale