Laptop Encryption Software: Laptop Tracking 75% Effective For Recovery?.

Anyone who’s bothered to check any news sources over the weekend has probably heard of the situation at Lower Merion School District: the school was monitoring student activities at home.  But it was something else that caught my eye today as I was reading‘s write-up of the situation, and why full disk encryption like AlertBoot may still be around for a while.

The Case at Lower Merion So Far…

A student in the Lower Merion School District, Pennsylvania, was accused by a vice-principal of engaging in “improper activity” at the student’s home, and produced a picture of him purportedly taking drugs.  Turns out that the “drugs” were Mike & Ike candy.  (Not familiar with it, so can’t comment.  I mean, do you snort it or something?  Why did the school assume it was drugs?  I mean, Tic-Tacs look like pills, too.)

When I first read of the situation I told myself that the school was in deep doo-doo, drugs or no drugs: you can’t go around monitoring what students do outside school.  And if you’re monitoring what they do at home, well…I was pretty sure that couldn’t be legal.

Also, besides the violations of privacy and wiretapping and whatnot, I was wondering “what if the kid was naked or something?”  All around a bad idea to be monitoring a kid in his room.

The school claims, of course, that they don’t monitor kids.  The cameras are only turned on when a laptop is reported lost or stolen, etc.  Seeing how the candy-popping student never reported the laptop stolen, though, the school’s explanation falls flat.

I woke up today to find that the feds are now involved, since there may be violations of wiretapping and privacy laws.  It was just a matter of time, really.

What Caught My Eye

I wasn’t really going to comment on the issue, since it was bound to be covered by everyone.

Besides, I had noted in the past that security needs to come in layers, so using encryption doesn’t mean tracking software can’t be used, which definitely has its uses.  For example, encryption software, while it can protect your data, cannot realistically do anything about recovering the stolen hardware (you could place a startup screen with your contact info and offer for its safe return…but how likely is it that someone will do so?)

But then I found an article at that covered the story.  In the article, it was noted that “Absolute [providers of LoJack-like services for stolen laptops] claims that it recovers about 75% of all laptops reported stolen.”

I’ve been looking for some stats on recovery rates, and there you have it.  Seventy-five percent.  It is an excellent recovery rate.  I mean, without tracking software, recovery is like, what, 0.2%?  I don’t think anybody knows, really.

On the other hand, the same stat shows why there needs to be different layers to security for the same machine.  There’s that 25% of the cases where your stolen computer can’t be traced and recovered.

Also, as I’ve noted in the past, you can’t just rely on tracking software for your security needs even if the recovery rate is 100%: There is no guarantee that sensitive data will be stolen between the time your laptop disappears and the time it’s recovered.

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