School computer theft: Jedi tricks for data recovery & device tracking

School computer theft: Jedi tricks for data recovery & device tracking

Device management in schools is no longer just about PC tracking after a computer theft. Schools who are looking for the best recovery software must also consider issues like device and laptop data recovery, and use their information to help the police. 

Device protection of educational IT assets such as laptops, tablets, and mobile devices have evolved enormously in the past years. Their use has changed so much, that instead of blocking their utilization in classrooms, teachers are encouraging its use as a learning tool with the use of Bring Your Own Device program (BYOD) or mobile technologies given by the State and borrowed by the student.

Gone are the days of textbooks and pencils. Instead, with the support of federal subsidies like 1:1 programs, today most students are learning from tablets and laptops.”

Edtech Digest

But we’re no longer necessarily hooked up to an Ethernet cable and a desktop computer. School children are not just prone to losing their stuff, but are a potential threat for pickpockets or theft.  Now, imagine these devices are commonly spread around outside the classroom into every student’s home.

That’s a lot of balls in the air! Even if we would love to, we can’t simply use the Force for tracking devices! It just doesn’t work that way.

“Careful, young padawan,” device tracking for K-12

Anti theft security in the school system needs very unique enterprise mobility solutions. According to Edtech Digest, “managing and securing these devices — and safeguarding the students that use them — has become the chief concern for Education IT. Many children aren’t used to carrying around expensive technology and often leave it unattended on their desks or in the playground making it an easy target for theft. So it’s no surprise that public schools are the top location for device thefts in the U.S.”

Of course, the market has a series of choices for theft protection software to track a computer or a tablet. But there is a catch! The personal information of children is delicate and can ask for trouble.

Well, some options take that into consideration, and “if sensitive or personal student data is on the device, it can be retrieved or wiped clean to protect it from unauthorized access,” Edtech Digest points out.

What is the school’s IT looking for?

Securly surveyed IT administrators employed by K12 school or districts or managing a school 1:1 device program:

  • 44% of respondents reported that students in their school at least sometimes lose or misplace devices.
  • 79% if answered that an “anti-theft” solution would be at least “fairly desirable.”
  • The majority of admins care most about being able to track the location of the device.

They also pointed out many of their concerns, which Prey can help with:

We need a system that will track a device in school or out. Looking for a device once it is lost or stolen is not good. We basically need to know where it was last either before the battery ran out or the device was factory reset by a thief. Location tracking would be a huge advantage when students are prone to walking off without their Chromebooks.

What happens before we locate the device?

Just imagine that a middle school student, prone to get bullied by an older kid, gets robbed or mugged by a grown up. Adults can cope with the stress and protect their lives rather than the device. But kids can face a lot of pressure. Particularly, if they borrowed the equipment from their professors.

 So, before lending a 1:1 program device to your children, remind them to take care of them, but give them peace of mind!


Chill out. We’ve got you covered! That is what a laptop tracker and recovery software is all about!”


Not only should you install what experts call “endpoint management and security solutions” on desktops, laptops or smartphones to secure devices, but promote a discussion with students and staff about theft prevention both in school and at home.

Security experts make their call:

If a student is approached by a thief, they should willingly give up the devices with no resistance. There have been far too many news stories about innocent children being hurt or killed for their mobile device.”

Edtech digest

In the event a device is stolen, the service kicks in immediately, an investigation begins, and proven investigative techniques are used to assist police in the recovery of the device.”

Edtech digest

“I just want to find my PC.”

We want to find it too!

But according to computer security experts or police investigators, In the event a protected device is stolen, an investigation is more likely to succeed if this type of technology supports access to the device.

 If you track a stolen computer and access it remotely after they stole it, you’re becoming a police sidekick: you can support their investigation, which can “ultimately lead to the identification and potential arrest of the criminals.”


Tom Sims from the San Jose, CA, police department told Securly that the likelihood that they recover a stolen device “is dependent on the amount of evidence. If the thief didn’t trigger an alarm or leave things behind, it’s unlikely”.

“We find that most thieves don’t use the device themselves. It’s more likely instead that they pawn it off to a friend. We often hear something like “Bob sold it to me for $50”. Thus, we’re not overly concerned with who, it’s more about where.”

Then, when your police-IT investigative team finally finds the culprit and ends up tracking a lost laptop, this long crusade would have proven you worthy.

 How do you track school devices? Are you able to give any information to the police?

data protection and anti theft

Nicolas Poggi

Nicolas Poggi

Nicolas Poggi is the head of mobile research at Prey, Inc., provider of the open source Prey Anti-Theft software protecting eight million mobile devices. Nic’s work explores technology innovations within the mobile marketplace, and their impact upon security. Nic also serves as Prey’s communications manager, overseeing the company’s brand and content creation. Nic is a technology and contemporary culture journalist and author, and before joining Prey held positions as head of indie coverage at TheGameFanatics, and as FM radio host and interviewer at IndieAir.