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Securing Computers: Variety of Steps Advised

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School officials throughout the country are exploring a variety of ways to protect their computer equipment from theft.

Several school officials interviewed last week offered these measures for consideration:

Put computers in laboratory settings, not individual classrooms. It is easier to secure a lab of 16 computers than several rooms with one or two computers each. If a computer must be used in an individual classroom, return it to the lab afterward.

In selecting a room for a computer lab, consider its accessibility. Choose a room on an upper floor in the center of the building that has few--if any--windows. Choose a room with one entrance, not one that has doors to adjacent rooms.

Install steel gratings or metal bars over windows; iron gates across doorways; and deadbolt locks in doors. Limit the number of keys that open these security devices.

Allow teachers and other school employees to take the equipment home over weekends and vacation breaks.

Install a burglar alarm in the school building and in the room in which the computers are stored. Activate the room's alarm as soon as the teacher leaves for the day, even if the custodian is scheduled to clean the room at a later time. Maintenance personnel should call security when they need to enter the room.

With strong cables, secure computer systems to each other or to heavy equipment and walls. One company that offers such a product is Secure-It Inc. of East Longmeadow, Mass. The $49.95 "Kablit" kit includes a 10-foot steel cable encased in vinyl, a lock and key, two hinge fasteners, and four hex fasteners. The kit is designed to secure one work station, including monitor, computer, disk drive, and printer.

Clamp computers to desk tops. Bolt the desks to the floor or some immovable object. One company in the market is Anchor Pad of Northern California, which sells a product line designed to prevent the theft of desktop office equipment. The kit, which ranges from $90 to $298, depending on the type of computer, includes a cast aluminum hardware plate that is attached to the bottom of the computer with a special adhesive. A similar plate is attached to the desk and when the two plates are joined and "lock," they reportedly have a holding power of 6,000 pounds.

Stencil the school's name on the computer. Etch the school's name and phone number into the computer's "mother board," or inside circuitry. Include a serial number that is recorded with the police.

Install locks on computer covers to prevent thieves from stealing valuable inside parts of computers--such as chips, boards, disks, and printer cards.

Purchase an insurance policy to cover computer equipment in case of theft or accidental breakage. Some school officials--among them lead-ers in the Houston district, which has made extensive investments in computer hardware--say that "insurance is so expensive it is prohibitive." But others have invested in a policy, or are investigating the possibilities. According to Glenn A. Fisher, a computer specialist in Alamada County, Calif., about half a dozen companies specialize in computer insurance, including Personal Computer Insurance of Los Altos, Calif., and Safeware, The Insurance Agency Inc., of Columbus, Ohio.

Safeware, which claims to insure more than $50 million worth of computer equipment, offers $21,000 worth of coverage for an annual premium of $189, with a $200 deductible. Other rates are available.

Personal Computer Software offers $7,500 in coverage for a $50 annual premium; $10,000 for $65; and $15,000 for $95. There is no deductible.

"About 40 percent of our policy holders have had a loss in the last year," said Linda Woods, the company's manager. "Computers are pretty popular to steal right now."


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