Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM have begun selling desktops and laptops that have what is called trusted computing hardware - basically, security-sensitive applications to lock down data.

The technology locks specialized encryption keys in a data vault--essentially a chip on the computer's motherboard. Computers with the feature can wall off data, secure communications and identify systems belonging to the company or to business partners. That means companies can improve the security of access to corporate data, even when the PC is not connected to a network.

This technology is expected to take off this year, when desktops and notebooks with the tech enabled will start being sold by Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM. It is expected that, during this year, more than 20 million computers will ship with the trusted platform module, up from 8 million in 2004.