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Software which pinpoints the exact location of laptop thieves via the Net is due to land in Europe by the end of this year.

The software, developed by US company zTrace, activates a tracing technology when stolen laptops are connected to the Internet.

Computer owners sign up to zTrace, then notify the company if their machine is stolen (a police report must also be submitted).

The tracing technology inside the laptop, which zTrace says cannot be detected or uninstalled, is then activated the next time anyone tries to get the notebook online.

Within seconds, zTrace's call centre is alerted and the company is able to locate the machine through either the IP address or the dial-up connection being used.

zTrace has a batch of retired police officers at its disposal at its Massachusetts HQ, and their job it is to contact the police department nearest the stolen laptop. It says that in the past year the three laptops that have been reported stolen to the company, which claims to have around 25,000 users, have all been recovered.

According to zTrace, this included the laptop of a company employee, who claimed his machine had been stolen while he was at the airport. The tracing technology kicked in, only to find the laptop was located in the same employee's house. The laptop was recovered and the worker, previously unaware of the software inside the machine, was sacked.

zTech currently operates only in the US and Canada, but is in talks with German distributor Softline in regards to selling the products in Europe.

The company is also talking with distributors in South America and South Africa, while in the US the software can be bought direct or through resellers such as Athena Corp or Meyring Corp.

The software, which costs $49.95 per year, is available solely for Windows-based applications, but a verson for the Palm operating system is in the pipeline. ®

Related Link

zTrace site
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