ActiveTrak Targets the Enterprise

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The anti-theft software company GadgetTrak, Inc., founded in 2007, provides theft recovery and data protection solutions for everything from MP3 players to thermal imaging cameras. While the company was founded with a focus on the consumer market, it’s now targeting the enterprise – the enterprise offering is heading into beta soon, with plans to launch within the next six months.

Company founder Ken Westin says he got the idea for the solution while working for a security company, writing Trojans and viruses for USB devices to demonstrate why they would need security solutions to keep such devices from accessing the network. “While I was doing that, I was working on a way to make the technology more white hat – and that’s how I found a way to allow it to track devices,” he says.

The first version of the software was designed to be installed on a digital camera or other portable media device. “When you plug that into a PC to access it, it’ll actually hijack the computer it’s connected to, get its Internet connection, and send information out regarding its location, name of the person logged in, that sort of thing,” Westin says.

Westin launched the product for free and quickly attracted attention. “Then we did a premium version and we started actually charging people for it – and it took off from there,” he says. “We started looking at how to protect other types of devices… mobile phones were a key target, as well as laptops.”

The laptop offering, Westin says, has increased in functionality over time thanks to Wi-Fi positioning and Webcams. “We can actually tell you where a device is, within 10 to 20 meters – and we also use the built-in Web cameras on these devices to capture a photo of the person using the system,” he says.

The same is true of the solution for mobile phones. “You can actually send a remote command to your phone via SMS to wipe information from the device, get the location of it, lock it down, and trigger an alarm,” Westin says.

Westin’s newest project is ActiveTrak, an enterprise solution designed not only to track the device but also to protect the data that resides on it (the company itself is also in the process of being renamed ActiveTrak, Inc.). “You can actually remotely wipe information from your laptop – and trigger an emergency data backup,” he says. “It’s not meant to replace existing backup solutions, but if for example you forgot to back it up that week, or maybe there’s some files you missed, you can actually send a signal to back up any Office documents… and then remotely wipe that information from the device.”

In addition to the consumer-focused GadgetTrak offering and the enterprise ActiveTrak solution for mass deployment across large networks, the company also plans to offer a white label version for resellers, as well as a hosted version of ActiveTrak for small to medium-sized businesses with anywhere from 100 to 2,500 devices to monitor. “If you want to do a larger deployment, you probably want to have your own server behind your own firewall that you manage,” he says.

The technology is also embedded in FLIR thermal imaging cameras. “They’re very expensive, about $3,000 to $300,000 each, and we have an OEM agreement with them…it’s not just for theft recovery – it’s also for export controls,” Westin says.

One of the key benefits of the technology, Westin says, is the fact that it allows police to determine a stolen device’s location without a warrant. “They can actually have that information in hand within 24 hours they can go to that location – and they have a photo of the suspect, so they can ask around – and they’re able to recover that device very quickly,” he says.

There are a range of colorful recovery stories on the company’s site – most recently, Westin says, a laptop was stolen in Portland, Oregon, then recovered in Missouri about two weeks later. “What we actually uncovered was a large theft ring,” he says. “They were buying stolen property from drug users here in Portland, they would then put the stuff into a large truck and they would drive it to Missouri, and that’s where they would sell it.”

Thus far, Westin says, the company has been able to boast a 100 percent recovery rate on laptops, and a 95 percent recovery rate on all devices across the board. With the shift from consumers to the enterprise space, though, that may change. “Businesses don’t really care so much about the value of the device – they just want to make sure that the data’s wiped from it,” he says.

The company is now global, not only in the U.S. but in Western Europe, most major cities in Asia, and Australia, as well. With over 50,000 devices now deployed worldwide, and with the enterprise offering coming soon, Westin says, “It’s going to be a pretty good year for us… we’re growing, that’s for sure.”

Jeff Goldman is a veteran technology journalist and frequent contributor to eSecurityPlanet.com.