Computers on the Run: Unusual Tales of Computer Theft

Computer recovery firm shares tales of computer theft and recovery


With laptop theft continually plaguing not only universities, but also business travelers, and with concerns over identity data that is sometimes contained on these laptops (such as a laptop stolen from Hewlett-Packard which contained data on some
200,000 former and current employees
), recovery of laptops and prevention of laptop theft has become an issue of greater and greater concern to not only the IT department, but also the physical security department.

So, on Tuesday when the press office from Absolute Software contacted SecurityInfoWatch.com with its list of "unusual tales in crime fighting" -- essentially a list of some of the most notable recoveries the corporations computer tracing technology had aided -- we thought the SIW readers might be interested to hear about the illegal trade of stolen laptops. It appears much of these stolen goods are ending up in online auctions, something that's been a problem for not only stolen laptops, but also been a problem for our loss prevention readers as well, who've seen goods fenced via sites like Ebay and others.

Without frther ado, here's Absolute's list of what it consider the more intriguing recovery stories from the last twelve months:

Stolen Laptop Given Honorable Discharge

In October 2005, a laptop reported stolen from a college in Illinois began calling in to the Absolute Monitoring Center from an Army barracks stateside. Before a recovery could be attempted, the laptop began calling in from Iraq. The user of the laptop had joined the National Guard and, once contacted in Iraq, indicated he had bought the laptop from someone at the college. The soldier promptly shipped the laptop back to the States where it was returned to its rightful owner. As a token of support to the troops, Absolute provided the serviceman with a new replacement computer.

Chop Shop Uncovered Thanks to Computrace

In Texas, Computrace led police to an auto repair shop, where they found not only the laptop that had been reported stolen, but a stolen luxury SUV, worth over $50,000. Numerous arrests ensued, and the case continues.

Santa Returns Laptops Stolen During Hurricane Katrina

Three laptops reported stolen during Hurricane Katrina were purchased by a woman in Alabama over an online auction service. The buyer kept one of the laptops for herself, and arranged for Santa to give the other two to her kids for Christmas. When informed that the used laptops she had purchased were stolen, Santa Mom offered up the computers. Not wanting to ruin Christmas for the kids, local law enforcement gave Santa a few days grace, giving her time to purchase two identical new laptops, transfer the electronic files over while the kids slept, and then replace the laptops, with the kids none the wiser!

Laptop Takes World Tour, Calls Home Often

A laptop reported stolen from a student in New Jersey in October 2005, called in to Absolute’s Monitoring Center five days later from Hong Kong.

Shortly thereafter, the laptop began calling in from England, then Dubai, then England again, and next from a hotel in Florida. When the laptop popped up in Massachusetts the next day, state police apprehended an astonished Hong Kong businessman who had bought the computer through an online auction service. A detective who helped crack the case sums it up: "I don't think I'd ever want you guys chasing me."

Stolen Laptops Flunk Student

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