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Free tracking program keeps laptops out of thieves' hands

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To stem the rising number of laptop thefts on campus, the UCLA Police Department has launched a new, easy-to-use, accessible laptop security program to safeguard personal computers that belong to students, staff and faculty.
 
FrontDoorSoftware is a downloadable tracking service, like Lojack, used to recover lost or stolen laptop computers. Available to the UCLA community free of charge due to funding from the UCLA Office of Insurance and Risk Management, the program can increase the rate of laptop recovery from 3 percent to more than 95 percent.
 
laptop crimeThat would make a huge difference at UCLA. "Last year, we lost a little over 100 laptops," said Captain John Adams of the UCLA Police Department’s Administration Bureau. "That’s one laptop every three days."
 
Previously, the UCPD used a security system called the Security Tracking of Office Property (STOP) Plate to track and recover lost laptops. Requiring about 800 pounds of force to remove, the security plate that attached to a computer proved effective but unpopular. Although it successfully deterred theft, its cost and appearance deterred usage. "The Anderson School made it mandatory for students to put them on," Adams said, "and we rarely had laptops reported stolen in that part of campus."
 
The new program functions in a similar way, but FrontDoorSoftware will be free and more accessible. And it doesn’t require anything to be physically attached. The system embeds tracking software into the computer’s programs, Adams explained.
 
To find its general location, he explained, you just logon from another computer. Once the laptop is powered on, the software’s GPS locator uses the high-speed Internet to locate the missing computer. If a laptop is lost accidentally and then found by someone, that person can easily locate the owner. "When you open the computer, it has a small screen that has minimal information about the laptop’s owner," including a phone number, Adams said.
 
Launched in January, the new program has already become widely popular at UCLA. So far, more than 1,000 people have now registered for the software. "We want that number to increase," Adams said, explaining that widespread laptop protection at UCLA will lower the risk of theft.
 
As more students, staff and faculty take advantage of the opportunity to protect their laptop computers, the campus will become less attractive to thieves. "They’re not going to want to come here," he said.
 
To install the program, go to http://frontdoorsoftware.com/ucla to upload the system onto a Windows or Apple laptop computer. "All you need is an e-mail address that has ‘ucla.edu’ on the back end of it," Adams said. After creating an account, users have access to a free, four-year license to use the program. Faculty and staff can re-register for the license for free after each four-year term expires. An individual can register up to four laptops.
 
UCLA is joining colleges nationwide, including UC Berkeley and Brown University, by offering FrontDoorSoftware to its campus. In just a year, Brown experienced a 40% reduction in laptop theft, Adams said. Although he is confident that the new security program will significantly decrease the incidence of laptop theft at UCLA, Adams said the UCLA community still needs to be careful.
 
"Nothing is ever 100 percent, so try to keep tabs on your property," he warned, "Try not to be a target."
 
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