Foil thieves with CompuTrace

The General Services Administration regional office in Atlanta has bought 150 copies of
CompuTrace, a theft prevention program from CompuTrace Inc. of Vancouver, British
Columbia, for its notebook users.


GSA paid less than $3,000 for the software through an IMPAC card purchase in June, said
Noel Walton, a GSA contracting officer.


He said the agency tested the software on two notebook PCs for more than 30 days.


The agency also paid a $3,000 annual service fee to CompuTrace to monitor the
notebooks. When a user first installs CompuTrace, the software calls a toll-free number
that connects to a CompuTrace server. The server assigns a serial number to the notebook's
hard drive and records the date and time and caller identification.


From that point on, the notebook modem calls in at regular intervals, at least once a
week. If the owner notifies CompuTrace that the notebook has been stolen, the software
starts dialing at five-minute intervals. Format protection keeps the thief from deleting
the software from the hard drive.


The owner and CompuTrace then work with the police and telephone company to locate and
recover the notebook.


CompuTrace officials claim a 100 percent recovery rate but said they have only one
success story they would speak about.


On Dec. 14, 1996, a production employee at a rock concert in Toronto had her portable
stolen backstage. Its CompuTrace software helped police recover it on Jan. 20, the first
business day after the thief turned it on in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.


According to Safeware, a computer insurance company in Columbus, Ohio, about $1.4
billion worth of personal computers were stolen in 1996. The FBI has reported that 90
percent of stolen computer products are never recovered.


Walton, an employee of GSA's Public Buildings Service, said he is approaching the
Federal Supply Service and other GSA regions about using CompuTrace.


"I'll tell you one thing--when a notebook gets stolen, that's when interest will
start increasing," he said. "The cost to monitor 150 laptops is less than it
costs to buy one new one."


CompuTrace works on 486 or faster PCs with internal, external or PC Card modems,
running Microsoft Windows 3.x, Windows 95, or MS-DOS 5.0 or later versions.


Contact CompuTrace at 800-220-0733.


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