Have you ever had your laptop stolen? I did several years ago, from
the trunk of a locked car in a suburban shopping mall. But lately
thieves are getting caught because of better software tools that are
on the laptops, and this is a story about two laptops that were stolen
several months ago.
The thefts were independent events, with only one
thing in common: both of them were managed by the same Sacramento VAR,
Capital Computer Guys.
Greg Hemig, the operator and owner of the business, has been a Kaseya
customer for years and tries to get all of his PC support clients to
install the Kaseya agent on their machines. This agent can do a lot of
different things, such as remotely control the machine, update
drivers, and install a keylogger to keep track of what the user is
doing. Most people use it for fairly benign purposes but Hemig figured
out quickly after the laptops were stolen that he could use the
software to track down where the machines were being used.
Which he did. He was able to gather all sorts of information from them
once they connected to the Internet – “I was able to find out not just
an IP address, which is what a typical anti-theft product like LoJack
would provide, but an actual physical address, the names of the user’s
girlfriend and family, how to access their bank accounts, and even
turn on the microphone on the laptop and listen to what they were
saying while they were typing.” Scary stuff, but within two weeks of
contacting law enforcement, he was able to get back both machines to
their original owners.
The hardest part about the whole process wasn’t collecting the
information, but convincing the cops that he was legit and that they
needed to act to retrieve the PCs. Both laptops didn’t travel very far
from their original locations – one was only 20 miles away.
Hemig charges $30 a month per PC to support his customers, and has
more than 600 PCs under management in this fashion. That is a nice
piece of business, and something that more VARs should consider. “It
makes me more competitive, and it was the same price that I used to
charge for break/fix work, but now I can deliver a lot better service
to my customers,” he says.
“I think traditional tech support companies
are going to disappear soon. Certainly, having Kaseya has changed my
business completely. I almost wish my laptop would be stolen just to
try to find it.” Kaseya may be new as an anti-theft device, but it
made it a lot easier to recover the laptops. And the company is
looking into providing other tools to help its VARs in similar
David Strom is an expert on Internet and networking technologies who
was the former editor-in-chief at Network Computing, Tom’s
Hardware.com, and DigitalLanding.com. He currently writes regularly
for PC World, Baseline Magazine, and the New York Times and is also a
professional speaker, podcaster and blogs at strominator.com and WebInformant.tv