[IWAR] SECURITY laptop theft on rise

From: 7Pillars Partners (partnersat_private)
Date: Thu Apr 23 1998 - 10:07:11 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 hit.
     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
     ``It's funny, but it works,'' said Wendi Goldberg, president of
     American Data Mart, a midtown Manhattan company whose motto is
     ``Securitywear for Hardware.''
     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 billion.
     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
     ``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 there.''
     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 buyers.
     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 precaution.
     ``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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