[ISN] Laptop theft on rise

From: mea culpa (jerichot_private)
Date: Fri Apr 24 1998 - 22:42:11 PDT

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    Laptop theft is on the rise
     New York Times 
     It is the high-tech computer thieves who get nearly all the attention: 
    the hackers, cyberpunks and industrial spies who delight in slipping past
    firewalls and penetrating seemingly impenetrable systems for fun and
     But another type of miscreant is wreaking considerable havoc in the
    computer world: the burglar. As laptops become smaller and lighter, they
    also become easier to pinch. Desktop models are not immune:  they are
    frequently stolen from businesses and schools. Even courthouses have been
     This low-tech crime has led to a low-tech solution: locking up the
    computers. A number of computer security companies now sell cables, clamps
    and sundry other locks to secure desktop computers and laptops. Think of
    them as a bicycle lock, or maybe the Club, for computers. 
     ``It's funny, but it works,'' said Wendi Goldberg, president of American
    Data Mart, a midtown Manhattan company whose motto is ``Securitywear for
     In a 1998 survey of 458 corporations, government agencies and
    universities, 65 percent reported that laptops had been stolen from them
    within the last year. Laptop theft was the third most common type of
    electronic skulduggery, behind viruses (reported by 84 percent) and
    insider abuse (78 percent), according to the survey, which was conducted
    by the Computer Security Institute, an association of computer security
    professionals in San Francisco. 
     Safeware, a Columbus, Ohio, company that insures computers, reported that
    it received 309,000 claims reporting stolen laptops in 1997, a 17 percent
    increase over the year before. About 100,000 desktops were reported stolen
    that year, the report said. The total cost of the thefts was put at $1.3
     Operating under the assumption that criminals will steal anything that
    has not been bolted down, many companies now bolt down their computers. An
    industry has cropped up selling steel-cable-and-Masterlock combinations to
    tether down laptops, and more complicated brackets and metal enclosures to
    fasten bigger desktop models to desks. There are even clamps like chastity
    belts that prevent people from getting access to CD-ROM drives. 
     One pioneer in the lock school of computer security was Secure-It, a
    company based in East Longmeadow, Mass. William P. Brady, the president,
    said the idea had struck him in 1983 when he was selling computers. 
     ``Small desktop computers were just beginning to make their way into
    corporate America,'' he recalled. ``Some people would come in and say, `Is
    there any way to secure these things?' We looked, and there was nothing on
    the market at the time. So we began investing these gizmos here and
     Some companies offer high-tech solutions: Computrace sells a product that
    directs computer modems to dial in to a central computer and give their
    whereabouts from time to time. But the companies that sell computer locks
    say the simplicity of clamps, cables and sometimes glue appeals to many
     Of course, no device is foolproof. Car thieves can cut through
    steering-wheel columns to get around Club-style locks, bike thieves can
    freeze and shatter the toughest locks, and a determined computer thief can
    probably find a way to beat a computer lock as well. 
     But manufacturers say the locks work well as a deterrent. In many cases
    computer thefts are crimes of opportunity, experts said, and they are
    frequently inside jobs. Ms. Goldberg said she had heard of computers being
    mailed home from company mailrooms, whisked out in recycling bins or
    simply gutted for chips and modems by computer chop-shop suppliers.
    August, she said, is a big month for larceny;  many who steal laptops or
    buy stolen computers want them for their college-bound children. 
     Often, the cost of theft goes well beyond the price of hardware. Just
    over a year ago, when a computer filled with compressed information on
    credit-card accounts was stolen from a Visa International data processing
    center in San Mateo, Calif., the company had to take great pains to make
    sure that no card holders were put at risk. Many cards were reissued as a
     ``People always forget about the data,'' Ms. Goldberg said. ``An
    executive might not care much about the cost of a stolen laptop, but if it
    has his personal credit history on it, that's a different story.''
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