When baseball scouts for the Seattle Mariners go everywhere from Cuba to Korea to Italy in search of new talent, they take laptop computers-worth about $2,400 each-to these fields of dreams. These machines, not to mention the top-secret information on up-and-coming players they contain, are a hefty investment Mariners management wants to keep secure. The team bought itself a little peace of mind and a lot of security recently by installing CompuTrace, a security solution from Bellevue, Wash.-based Absolute Software that can track lost or stolen mobile tools from virtually any locale.
"They have twenty-something scouts that travel the United states looking at young baseball players, and they keep notes on laptops," says David Veneski, Absolute's vice president of marketing. "What they don't want happening is the machine getting out of their hands. We make jokes that you don't want your PC ending up in the hands of the L.A. Dodgers."
CompuTrace, a tracing and recovery program, works through phone lines to monitor PCs. The program, which costs $70 for installation and one year of service and has discounts offered on two to three years of service, has three components. The first is tracking agent software that can be hidden on the hard drive of any Windows-based PC. The software is programmed to secretly dial into the CompuTrace Monitoring Center at regular intervals. This center-the second component of the system-notes the PC's location and electronic serial number with a time and date stamp. Even the computer user doesn't know when the software is running its check, since there is no program drag time or external clue that signals the program is in use.
When system administrators are notified that a PC has been lost or stolen, the program's third component, the Recovery Service, kicks in. It begins calling the laptop at regular, 15-minute intervals until the person in possession of the laptop logs on to a LAN line or standard Internet connection, and the computer responds with a "ping" or hit on the location of the missing laptop. The program can trace any phone number, including those that are unlisted or private.
Once the location is identified, the Recovery Service works to retrieve the computer, and calls in local law enforcement officials if necessary. Of course, recovery hinges on locating the person who ends up dialing up with a modem or plugging into a LAN line, but Veneski says most people-even criminals-do log in eventually.
The Mariners have been using the system since about June and are so far pleased with the results, says Larry Witherspoon, the team's director of information services. "We never really had a problem" with loss or theft, Witherspoon says, "but the security component certainly made it attractive to us."
So attractive, he adds, that every laptop used in the Mariners' corporation-including those used by public relations officials and other staffers-has since been equipped with the same security system.
By The Numbers
Company: Seattle Mariners
Line of business: Professional baseball team
Revenue (1998): $90 million
Point of pain: Securing laptop computers used by baseball scouts from loss or theft
Solution: Installed CompuTrace security and recovery software
Key vendor: Absolute Software,