Thursday, March 3, 2011

Laptop recovery service reveals thefts

Lindsey Treffry | The Communicator

In Fall 2010 alone, there were three Dell laptops and three MacBook Pros stolen or lost by students from the library.

All SFCC laptops rented through the library can be tracked through a chip placed internally that allows a company called Computrace to track the where-abouts of the laptop.

“Once a laptop has been stolen, we do a police report, or the student who checked out the laptop [files a police report],” Library Supervisor Babs Hachey said. “I file a claim with Computrace and they work in conjunction with the police department.”

Once Hachey files a report with the police department, she then files a theft report number on the Computrace website.

According to IT Manager Rod Larse, Computrace is comparable to an On-Star system in a car. Laptops can be tracked through a GPS-like system.

According to the Computrace website, their theft program mines computers using techniques like file and registry scans, geolocaters, and key capturing, which enables Computrace to track every key struck on a keyboard.

If the gelocation system cannot track the laptop in a certain time frame, the Absolute Software company—who owns Computrace—is required to replace it, according to IT Specialist 2 Sharon Gunn.

“We got a laptop back from law enforcement in December,” Larse said. “[The student] had peeled the inventory tags off.”

According to Larse, the laptop had been vandalized by green stickers and tape.

“[When an inventory tag is removed] students don’t realize that doesn’t solve the problem,” Gunn said. “Computrace is embedded in the notebook.”

According to Hachey, if a laptop is stolen or lost, a student is charged the basic cost of a laptop: $1350 for a Dell and $2200 for a MacBook Pro. The fee for a damaged laptop amounts to the total cost of damages. For a stolen or lost power cord and computer case, students are required to pay $75, according to Hachey.

According to Washington state law, if rented or leased property is stolen, it may result in a class C felony, which has a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

“Students need to think twice before taking [laptops] because then you have a criminal record,” Gunn said.

As seen in Issue 42.6 of The Communicator