LogMeIn can control some PCs, even when off

September 20, 2009 – 6:20 PM

During a recent talk with LogMeIn CEO Michael Simon, I learned about the company’s new LogMeIn Central dashboard for IT managers, designed to help them keep tabs on thousands of computers at a time.

I also heard about the new version of virtual network service Hamachi, which makes it a competitor to standard (and expensive) virtual private-networking products in the enterprise.

We chuckled a bit about the version of LogMeIn that’s embedded in the dashboard of some Ford F150 pickup trucks, so their owners can remotely control their office PCs. And I heard about a LogMeIn technology, just now reaching the market, that enables not just remote diagnostics of computers but also access to data on the hard drives of PCs that are turned completely off. Gulp.

That last technology, part of Intel’s VPro system architecture, has just started to ship in a few new PCs. It’s designed for corporate networks so that support personnel can get into a machine–to run a backup, for example–regardless of whether it’s running Windows, has crashed into a blue screen, or has been shut down. As long as the PC is plugged into the wall and to an Ethernet connection, the computer, even though in an off state, will continue to draw a small amount of power (about 4 watts) while it monitors the network for control packets.

The technology is getting built into motherboards using the Q45 support chipset. Only a few corporate desktops use this technology, in particular HP’s DC 7900 and Lenovo’s ThinkCentre M58 lines.

Simon told me that the technology does not provide a wide-open backdoor. There are security protocols. The user has to agree to use the technology, and like all LogMeIn remote-control products, remote access isn’t possible unless the computer’s owner agrees to it. And in many ways, it is similar to current remote-access products that rely on “Wake-on-LAN” packets to power up a PC so it can then be controlled remotely. The difference here is of degree.


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