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Computer thefts strain ITS, Security

Since the first day of spring break, six computers and two ceiling projectors have been stolen from rooms in the Robert Noyce ’49 Science Center and the Alumni Recitation Hall.

The flurry of missing computers and electronic equipment are atypical of a usually calm theft climate on campus.
“We’ve never had this happen before—it’s usually once every couple of years that one will get taken,” said the Green Team Leader of the Information Technology Service (ITS) Karen McRitchie.

According to McRitchie, the times and dates of the thefts cannot be known with certainty. ITS was not notified immediately at the time of the disappearances, but instead received individual reports as the computers were noticed missing.

“We noticed the [disappearances] trickling in. It’s always hard to know when they were taken,” McRitchie said.

The uncommon surge of the thefts has also created some concerns about replacing the stolen equipment.

“If this continues, we’re not going to be able to replace them this fast,” McRitchie said, citing budget cuts concurrent with a campus-wide reduction of operating costs.

Although little is known about the thefts, the incidents have raised general concerns about building and computer security.

“Not all of our buildings are really locked during the day,” McRitchie said.

Director of Security Stephen Briscoe expressed the possibility of increasing security measures to reduce the likelihood of theft. The possibilities focused largely around securing Noyce, a building that is unlocked for a large portion of the day and contains a high concentration of computers.

“Now should we lock [Noyce] down? … Should we run everybody out of that building at 5 p.m.? These things are all on the table,” Briscoe said.

Though ITS has increased efforts to secure computers with heavy-duty cables, there are still problems that remain.

“We’re starting to go around and cable a lot more,” McRitchie said. “The publics [computers] have always been cabled, but these [stolen ones] come from not so public areas.”

McRitchie discussed how some of the thefts required the use of tools to remove the cables, which secure the computers.

“Two of the cables have actually been cut,” McRitchie said.

The recent thefts include three Mac Minis, two iMacs, one Mac laptop, and two ceiling projectors, according to McRitchie, adding up to a total estimated replacement cost upwards of $14,000.

These current incidents recall two computer thefts at the publications office in December during finals week.

“All I really know about the computers disappearing is that I think it was on Wednesday night or afternoon they were last seen in the office, and then I got an e-mail late … telling me that two of the computers were gone, wondering if we had taken them for maintenance,” said SPARC Chair Christine McCormick ’09.

Although there were concerns, McCormick cited a feeling of safety prior to the thefts.

“There are some security issues with this room, but I guess we just assumed that computers are big enough they’d be okay,” McCormick said.

According to McCormick, an increase in surveillance may help to better monitor and secure the publications office.

“We talked with [Dean of Students] Travis Greene about getting a p-card reader for the door,” McCormick said. “In the old pubs building that’s on south campus there used to be a p-card reader that was only open to media heads and editors so that you could patrol who went in and out of the building.”

With the plausibility of more thefts on campus, Briscoe also supports an implementation of security cameras.

“If I had a camera in some of the areas, I could just go back to some of the footage,” Briscoe said. “I wouldn’t have to be sitting here viewing the camera I could just go back to the footage of the time span on when the crime occurred, look through the video and come up with what happened.”

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