This self-destructing PC is like the Fort Knox of computers

Spy movies often depict captured agents biting into a cyanide pill for a quick and painless death, which is preferable to being tortured to extract top secret information. Likewise, what could be considered the most secure PC in the world comes with a self-destruct feature that eradicates all data from the storage device if someone tampers with it. That is just one of many security features baked into the Orwl PC.

The Orwl is a compact, disc-shaped system that fits in the palm of your hand. It is loaded to the hilt with security features to keep your data safe. In fact, Orwl requires two-factor authentication, a physical key, and a password to power up. And that is just the beginning—the level of protection on this thing runs much deeper.

Each Orwl PC comes with a unique key fob that uses near-field communication (NFC) to communicate with the system. Assuming you keep the key fob on your person, when you move more than 10 meters away from the PC it goes into lock mode. The processor is put to sleep, while access to the USB ports and HDMI output are all cut off. It becomes a useless system to intruders at that point—there is no way to side-load malicious software or extract data.

Of course, the next step a bad guy would take is to dismantle the system and physically remove the storage drive. This is where the self-destruct feature comes into play. A series of sensors can detect when someone is physically tampering with the Orwl, even if the PC is unplugged. When that happens, it permanently erases the encryption key for its self-encrypting Intel SSD that sits inside. It is the equivalent of a cyanide pill, and it is only used as a last resort.

Though small in size, Orwl is not cheap. Models range between $1,699 and $4,299 with your choice between Windows, Ubuntu, or Qubes OS. These systems ship with an Intel Core m7 processor (up to 1.2GHz) based on Skylake and featuring Intel HD Graphics 515, up to 8GB of LPDDR3-1600 RAM, and an encrypted SSD up to 480GB in capacity.

Other features include 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth LE 4.2, two USB 3.0 Type-C ports, and an HDMI port supporting 4K output.

None of these are gaming-grade setups by any stretch, and most gamers probably do not need this level of security. Even so, it's nice to see that something like this exists. And who knows, maybe in time motherboard makers and OEMs will implement similar security options as standard features.

In the meantime, Orwl systems can be preordered now and will be available at the end of August.

Paul Lilly

Paul has been playing PC games and raking his knuckles on computer hardware since the Commodore 64. He does not have any tattoos, but thinks it would be cool to get one that reads LOAD"*",8,1. In his off time, he rides motorcycles and wrestles alligators (only one of those is true).