Theft Detection Software Helps Find Kids Too

Yes, theft technology can be a dandy tool for ensuring that a stolen computer gets returned to its rightful owner. But Absolute Software has also found itself involved in tracking down kids as well, who need other kinds of help.

Absolute uses a proprietary technology it calls "Persistence" that is added to devices — computers, tablets and smartphones — at the factory. When Persistence is activated, it provides a two-way connection that enables school personnel to freeze the device and remotely recover or delete data from it. When the device is stolen or misplaced, the same program can also be used by Absolute's investigations team to determine the device's location; then the team works with law enforcement agencies to attempt to recover the machine.

This week the company released a shortlist of its "most compelling" theft investigations from 2015 for education customers. Sometimes it's not just the device that needs help. Among the investigations tackled last year, is the story of a troubled student who ran away from home while at school one day, taking her school laptop with her. Absolute investigators worked with the local police to "geolocate" the device, which the student still had. The police made contact with the girl to ensure her safety and put her in touch with her family.

In another situation, a student left a school laptop exposed in a car, and it was heisted by a thief. When the high school reported the theft, Absolute began its monitoring process and watched as the device was sold in a series of online sales and "moved from state to state," from Alabama to Arizona to Idaho. Eventually, the computer ended up with a 12-year-old, who was making references to suicide, self-harm and bullying in her online communications. Absolute notified local police of the girl's location; the police contacted her family. She was found to be unharmed, and the device was recovered.

In a more mundane  —  but still satisfying  —  recovery story, a Florida school theft resulted in the loss of three desktop computers and monitors and other equipment. An Absolute investigation was started. Over the next several days, each of the computers came online. The recovery team established the location and user identity, information that was handed over to the police. They searched the suspect's home and found all three computers along with other equipment.

According to Absolute, the company conducted "more than 5,700 investigations" in 2015.

Among its K-12 customers are Auburn-Washburn Unified School District 437 in Kansas, Baltimore City Public Schools and Val Verde Unified School District in California.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.