Security | News

Mobile Device Thefts Rampant on College Campuses

For the second year in a row universities are the fifth most popular location for thefts of mobile devices to occur in the United States. Dormitories were No. 13, down from either position last year. And once again, the United States tops countries and Chicago tops cities where thefts occur. Houston comes in No. 2, followed by Detroit; however, thefts are down in those last two cities compared to 2011 numbers.

The results of this survey come from the 12,705 theft reports conducted by Absolute Software during 2012. Absolute sells products and services that help to manage and secure mobile devices, including LoJack, a service that helps to locate, lock, and wipe data from missing or stolen devices when they connect to the Internet.

"The mobility of the end user is a definite trend we've observed, with many recoveries occurring in a different country — and even a different continent — from where the device was originally stolen," said Ward Clapham, vice president of investigation and recovery services for the company. This geographical expansion allowed us to hit a team milestone in mid-2013, with the inclusion of Kosovo for a total of 103 countries where we've effected the successful recovery of a stolen device."

The survey cited the instance of a George Mason University student who found that his laptop had been stolen from his apartment while he was away for the weekend. The student reported the theft to the vendor and local police. The investigation tracked the device to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. After the device was remotely "frozen" by the Absolute team, it was recovered by local police and shipped back to the owner. The user in Mongolia had purchased the computer from a secondhand dealer, according to the company.

"Data protection continues to be a priority for our customers," said CEO John Livingston. "As the cost of the endpoint continues to decrease, enterprise IT departments care less about recovering the hardware and instead are focused on protecting the corporate data these devices contain... The information stored on endpoint devices is extremely confidential and valuable. And if a security incident occurs, the penalties for breaching privacy laws, as well as the impact to reputation, can be catastrophic."

Livingston noted that during 2012 customers performed 6,440 data delete commands. That's up by a third over the previous year, he added.

The complete report is available on the Absolute's Web site.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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