In yet another “isolated incident” – TSA officer accused of stealing laptops from lost & found

Bad apples are found in every part of life – but the Transportation Security Administration seems to have a lot of bad luck keeping bad apples out of their ranks.

On Monday, 40 year old Jennifer Steplight surrendered to face charges that she stole four laptops from a TSA lost and found facility, and that she covered up the theft by creating false records.

Steplight was in charge of maintaining the records for all lost and found items at Newark airport, and was employed as a Master Transportation Security Officer-Coordination Center Officer.

Despite the long and impressive title, she apparently couldn’t resist helping herself to some of our belongings. In 2008, Steplight even received the Newark Liberty Airport “Consistency in Service” award.

She has now been charged with one count of embezzlement and one count of making false statements. If found guilty, she faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine for the embezzlement and five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the false statements.

[Image from Getty]

Product review – Computrace LoJack for laptops

In this product review I’m going to take a closer look at a piece of software that has the potential to recover your laptop should you ever become the victim of laptop theft. Laptop computers are the perfect item for thieves; they are easy to grab, they are worth a fortune and they are pretty easy to resell.

Laptop thieves are everywhere; it could be the person standing next to you on the train, it could be the maid cleaning your hotel room, it could even be the strange guy walking down the hallway at your office. There are some basic physical methods to protect your machine, but in the end, you will always run the risk of losing your machine, no matter what you do.

This is where my review product for today can help; LoJack for Laptops is a piece of software that combines 2 basic components into one security solution; one part is the software itself, the other is the LoJack theft recovery team.

I first became interested in LoJack after a friend at a large company told me some stories of how LoJack helped them recover machines that were reported stolen. They even found a stolen machine inside the home of the staff member who filed the theft report. LoJack has a very impressive recovery record, and on average 60 stolen machines a week are returned to their rightful owner. To read some of the success stories, check out their website.

The first step in protecting your machine is to install the LoJack software on the PC. The installation process takes about 5 minutes and requires you to enter a serial number which is included with the package. Then you provide LoJack with your personal information such as address, email and phone number. LoJack also offers the option to purchase the software and serial number directly from their site.In order to verify that the installation was successful, the software makes a test call to the LoJack servers. This also lets you change any firewall settings if necessary. From now on, your computer is invisibly protected by LoJack.

In the event your laptop is stolen, you first call the police, then you contact LoJack and provide them with the information they’ll need to initiate a search. They will then go to work tracking your laptop. The entire success of LoJack is based on the stupidity and greed of the common thief; most of them will take your computer home, plug it in, and surf the web. Of course, they are unaware that the moment the machine connects to the Internet, it “phones home” and lets the LoJack theft team know what they need to know in order to recover the machine.

Once installed, LoJack is invisible to the user. It doesn’t show up in your programs list, and it can’t be easily uninstalled.

Of course, this software protection is no replacement for common sense, and some physical protection from a laptop lock and an ID tag like those from yougetitback or trackitback.

LoJack is available in three different versions; the standard version costs just $39.99 and provides basic laptop recovery. The premium version adds remote data deletion and a service guarantee. The third version is aimed towards corporate users, and includes things like asset management. The purchase price protects your laptop for 1 year, so you will need to renew this subscription yearly in order to keep the protection active. LoJack for laptops is available for Windows and Mac users. As part of a “back to school” promotion, you can purchase LoJack standard for just $29.95.

The data deletion feature in LoJack Premium lets you remotely wipe everything off the laptop, which is especially important if the machine contains sensitive data. The service guarantee protection means LoJack will recover the machine, or you’ll receive up to $1000.

$40 is a pretty low price to pay for protecting a laptop easily worth $1000. In my opinion a product like LoJack is a “must have” if you travel with your laptop. There are however several downsides; the product will not work outside the US as LoJack will be unable to recover it. There are also several ways an experienced thief can disable the service, but I won’t make their lives easier by describing them. All you need to know is that the average dumb laptop thief won’t know LoJack is installed, and that LoJack has a proven track record at returning machines to their owner.