Jonathan Field - Maker of Random Stuff

Stolen Laptop

As I was working at a school today a couple kids came in with their broken laptop and asked if I could take a look. It had a virus that prevented logging in, so I offered to fix it at home and bring it back in on Thursday.

After fixing it I came across some files indicating the laptop was stolen from a government office. It’s got a database of disability beneficiaries, including private information. Upon closer inspection I also found a government asset tag on the bottom.

I’m still contemplating the best way to handle it.

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7 Responses to Stolen Laptop

  1. Matt Reinhart

    Could it have been legally removed and failed to be wiped? (Just trying to assume the best…)

    • Ya, I’ve gone through the possibilities in my mind. While it is possible that it was legally acquired, I think that is by far the least likely scenario. Computer theft is rampant here.

      Assuming it is stolen, I wonder how involved the kids are. Did they steal it or just buy it from someone who did? How much trouble would they get in in either case? And what impact would that have on my presence at the school?

  2. Put the virus back on and say you couldnt fix it? Probably the least impactful solution. You could alway ask them about the asset tag too. Depending on the answer you could just wipe that database “at no extra charge”.

    • That does seem the safest move. But I struggle with the whole “what is the greatest positive impact I could have in this situation” thing.

      There is a principal I trust (from a different school) that I’m going to ask about it tomorrow. I figure local advice is a good idea.

  3. jason levesque

    you removed the virus. just hand it back to them.

    Think about what you and your friends did or might have done at that age.

    you have no idea of the circumstances they acquired it under. they could have purchased it in good faith, they could have been given it, they could have found it in a dumpster. On the other hand, maybe they are criminals who will fuck your shit up if you tell on them. So pretend you never saw anything, hand it back to them, and if they bring you anything else, don’t help.

    You don’t know what the consequences of your escalating the issue will be, either. Just give it back and walk away…

    • Oh ya, I don’t think they’re necessarily bad kids. I definitely did similarly stupid things when I was young.

      To be clear, when I talk about the “greatest positive impact” I could have, I’m talking about on the kids. Sure it’s a shame someone stole a laptop from a government office, but I think my main concern lies with the kids becoming comfortable with and pursuing criminal activity.

      After contemplating and getting some advice from a trusted principal, I think I’m going to give the laptop back but have a good talk with them about the situation. Perhaps it will give them something to think about in future decisions.

  4. Carol A Flaherty

    If your in possession of a “HOT” item who says you didn’t take it? :O

    You may not want them to know you know about files.

    I know you think these kids are not that bad but this could go sour I believe one can not reason with a criminal mind if they are criminals.

    Wish one could then the jails would be emptier.

    Would hate to see them get in trouble I heard they deal tough in Africa.

    Tim said “if you were busy doing his work this wouldn’t have happened” LMHO!

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