Software tracks college computer to El Rito

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By Carol A. Clark

Software tracks college computer

Hi-tech tracking software installed on electronic equipment at UNM-Los Alamos led Los Alamos police detectives straight to a trailer in El Rito.

Detectives discovered UNM-LA janitor David Suazo, 51, and the equipment July 28 at trailer 83 on State Road 215.

The case has been sent to the district attorney’s office for consideration of charges regarding the equipment that went missing from the college sometime between June 23 and July 15, Det. Doug Johnson said.

Johnson, Det. Ron Binion and state police officers exercised a search warrant at the trailer and found a Dell desktop computer, flatscreen monitor and keyboard, a mouse, three Dell speakers and associated hardware missing from the college.

UNM-LA Advisory Board Chairman Michael Wismer said the stolen computer was one of the computers used in classrooms at the campus for instructional purposes.

"There was no personal or administrative data on the computer," Wismer said. "Anytime you leave computers in a classroom for instructor use, the potential for theft is always high despite our best efforts to lock-up the hardware. As an added measure, Information Technology (IT) staff had loaded LoJack software onto all classroom computers."

In this case, LoJack (software) worked as advertised and began transmitting a signal as soon as the thief connected to the Internet, Wismer said, adding that UNM-LA officials worked closely with the Los Alamos Police Department to trace the source, obtain the appropriate search warrant and make an apprehension.

"The person arrested is an employee of UNM-LA and appropriate personnel actions have been taken in accordance with UNM policies and procedures," Wismer said. "On behalf of Dr. Cedric Page (UNM-LA executive director) and UNM-LA, we would like to publicly acknowledge the professional efforts of the Los Alamos Police Department for swiftly solving this case."

Johnson credited the college for its forward thinking in having the software on its systems, adding that the Computrace software was installed on the missing computer March 28, 2006. A theft recovery specialist from Absolute Software Corporation contacted LAPD Det. Doug Johnson July 17 regarding the missing computer equipment.

"What separates this case from others like it is that UNM-LA went the extra distance and put theft recovery software on its computer systems, which gave us a definite advantage," Johnson said. "In using the software, we were able to track the equipment to a location miles away from Los Alamos and return it to its rightful owner."

Computrace LoJack is a theft recovery service designed to track, locate and recover lost or stolen computer systems. The premium edition can even delete sensitive files remotely, so they do not fall into the hands of computer criminals, according to the company website.

"The software enables the Absolute Monitoring Center to receive, record and review every keystroke typed into the computer," Johnson said. "The software also instructs the computer to contact the monitoring center, on a periodic basis, when connected to a phone line or any type of Internet connection in the form of a silent alarm, which the user is unaware of."

The monitoring center captures the caller ID of the phone line the computer is connected to or to the originating Internet Protocol (IP) address of the computer, Johnson said.

Following the theft, the software directed the computer to contact the monitoring center on 24 occasions, all of which were originated from the El Rito address. With this information, Johnson obtained a search warrant from First District Court, which was served on Suazo.