To catch a thief

In an effort to encourage more U.S. government agencies to buy its computer-theft-recovery service, a Canadian company has granted Lockheed Martin Corp. a license to offer the service in the United States.

Under an agreement announced this month with Absolute Software Corp., Vancouver, British Columbia, Lockheed Martin Mission Sytems will open a monitoring center at its secure facility in Gaithersburg, Md., making it the first facility in the United States for users of Absolute's Computrace product.

When installed on a computer, Computrace software automatically sends data to the monitoring center, enabling administrators to track how the computer is being used and to help locate it if it is lost or stolen.

The system is a response to the growing problem of portable computers being stolen or lost while workers are traveling or working in the field. For example, security procedures at the State Department were criticized last spring when a laptop was stolen from inside its Washington headquarters.

Under the three-year licensing agreement, Lockheed Martin will resell Computrace in the United States, with the Maryland monitoring center set to begin operating in July, said Jon Watada, Lockheed Martin program manager for computer-security products and services. Current users of the Computrace system are monitored by a facility in Vancouver. Some U.S. federal and state agencies have been using Computrace for years.

When the General Services Administration's Public Buildings Service in Atlanta, Ga., started buying laptops a few years ago, it immediately began looking for a way to keep track of them, said Karen Greenhow, regional systems chief for the GSA office, which covers eight states in the southeastern United States.

The Public Buildings Service has been using Computrace for more than two years and has 400 copies in use, she said. About half of the service's workers are in the field and half in regional offices. Many of them travel frequently or telecommute.

Since Computrace was installed on the machines, a few laptops have been stolen, but they were all recovered, Greenhow said.

Workers at the Vancouver monitoring facility "are the first people to be alerted when a laptop is stolen and is being used," she said. The company works closely with GSA's Federal Protective Service to track down the laptops.

The Public Buildings Service installs Computrace on every laptop and has found it to be a good asset-management tool as well, Greenhow said. "The software also tells us whether workers are using the laptops," she said.

Lockheed Martin will market the system as a fee-based service for $50 per year per unit, with quantity discounts for government buyers, Watada said.

Lockheed Martin expects the U.S.-based facility to attract more business from the government because some agencies may have been hesitant to use a foreign-based service, Watada said.

But the Canadian monitoring center has not been an issue for the New Hampshire Office of Emergency Management, which has used Computrace for two years, said Bill Shurbert, a technical support specialist for the New Hampshire office.

When the agency lost a laptop a few years ago, officials decided they needed a recovery method, Shurbert said. Buying insurance for its 30 laptops was too expensive, so they bought the Computrace service instead.

"For very little money, we could put this tracking software on the computers and constantly keep track of them," Shurbert said.

Lockheed Martin plans to add features to Computrace, including secure electronic envelopes that enable the sender and receiver to verify each other's identity, biometric security features and products that can destroy data on a laptop once it has been reported stolen, Watada said.


Computrace software is installed on a notebook computer, where it

operates in the background, invisible to the user.

When the computer is connected to the Internet or a local-area network,

data is automatically transmitted to a monitoring center. The data—including

the Internet provider address, user name, e-mail address, operating system,

hard drive size, processor type and speed, and the originating phone number—is stored in a secure, online database that customers can view via Web-based


If a computer is reported missing, it is flagged in the database.

The next time someone makes an Internet or phone connection using

that computer, operators at the monitoring center report the computer's

location and may work with law enforcement officials to recover the missing


Source: Lockheed Martin Mission Systems


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