In the latest effort to combat laptop theft, St. John’s, through IBM, has partnered with Canadian-based Absolute Software to use one of its leading products, Computrace. ComputracePlus is a tracking software solution that will aid in the recovery of stolen or lost computers.
Originally developed in 1997, Computrace has become the “market-leading computer tracking and loss control product,” according to the company’s Web site. In addition to St. John’s, Absolute has aligned itself with other universities in the Northeast including Princeton University, Rutgers University, Pace University and Quinnipiac University.
The main component of ComputracePlus is a chip that is installed as part of the laptop hard drive. This chip acts as a homing beacon for the Absolute Software Monitoring Center to locate the laptop in the event that it is stolen or lost. Because ComputracePlus is actually a part of the computer’s hard drive, once it is installed it becomes permanent unless it is removed, which would render the processor useless.
In the event that a laptop is stolen or misplaced, the owner can notify Public Safety. Public Safety would then contact the Monitoring Center, who would then, through the laptop’s Internet connection and IP address, locate the laptop.
Although ComputracePlus would play a large part in the retrieval of a stolen laptop, it cannot do the job alone. On the back of each ThinkPad laptop monitor is a sticker that indicates that the laptop is “marked for identification and is registered with the New York City Police Department.” Once ComputracePlus helps the Monitoring Center locate the laptop, the NYPD Crime Prevention Unit steps in, recovers the computer and makes arrests if needed. These two methods of recovery work hand in hand. The NYPD can only trace the whereabouts of the laptop once it has been recovered. In contrast, ComputracePlus can uncover the whereabouts of the laptop but cannot physically retrieve it.
Along with the NYPD and the ComputracePlus tracking system, St. John’s students play a part in the salvaging of their laptops because an official report to the Public Safety department is required for a search to commence.
According to the Absolute Software official website, their Computer Theft Recovery team has recovered more than 1,000 laptops in the last three years and has found “over 90 percent” of reported stolen laptops.
According to Bernadette Lavin, director of Information Technology, the University has done “extremely well” in laptop theft rates; she adds that ComputracePlus offers a “more proactive approach” in the aiding of the safe recovery of laptops.
The class of 2010 is currently the only class with ComputracePlus on their laptops and each new incoming class after this year will also have ComputracePlus.
Knowledge of this laptop retrieval aid has been met with mixed reactions from the student body.
“I think Computrace is a smart addition to the laptops because you never know who could come and take your laptop and run with it,” said freshman Anthony Elejalde. “It’s like having an extra bit of insurance, which would make me breathe a lot easier.”
Others were not so optimistic.
“If they installed chips into the computer, what else did they install?” said freshman Sam Banks. “You’re supposed to have a sense of freedom in college, while you might be watched unknowingly.”
The services of ComputracePlus can start at around $50 a year. For St. John’s students, however, this software is provided free of charge. Lavin said a student who wants to upgrade their laptop to the ComputracePlus monitoring system can bring it to the Laptop Repair Office in Sullivan Hall, room 115.