Stolen laptops represent a data security threat. You might have a policy of not storing confidential data on laptops issued to your staff but data will end up there. You don't generally issue staff with laptops unless you want them to compute data while on the move.

As soon as a laptop is stolen or mislaid it represents a security threat. It would be useful if the laptop could recognise that it has been stolen and protect its own data integrity by destroying the data on its hard drive.

If you regularly have sensitive data carried on laptops then this becomes even more desirable. Beachhead Solutions has a product called Lost Data Destruction which does just that. It has an obvious attraction and a obvious problem.

The software is installed on the laptop computer and policies are set. If there are more than a certain number of failed password attempts in a session then the data on the laptop drive is deleted. It's not just a file delete; the file contents are over-written.

You can specify two levels of security here. Files of a certain type, or specific name or in a folder, can be encrypted. You can then specify that in the case of a presumed theft or lost laptop the policy-protected data is deleted.

What happens if there is a mistake? Your data gets wiped out in error? Beachhead has a deal with Iron Mountain, an electronic vaulting company, for you to have a laptop computer's contents backed up online to a remote vault. The theory is that you can then recover mistakenly deleted files. The deletion is inconvenient but not disastrous.

There doesn't seem to be any way that you can better secure information on laptop computers without taking security precautions that inconvenience you in some way. The free and easy days, for that is what they were, are going.

The data on your laptop, the sensitive data, has to be encrypted. And the way to guard against thieves breaking through the encryption barrier is to have the data on the laptop self-destruct.

It is a no-going-back-step and should only be contemplated if you have rock-solid backup arrangements in place.

The combination of electronic vaulting and self-destruct SW on the laptop can provide probably the only complete assurance that data on stolen laptops won't be accessed and that inadvertent deletions can be recovered.

The electronic vault becomes a remote Recycle Bin; clever idea.