Chemical prints to stop employee theft

EDITH Cowan University is the latest to join a growing list of major organisations chemically marking their computer equipment against theft.

It is using the AustGuard invisible rare earth chemical method developed by a former Perth police officer that puts a traceable chemical fingerprint on the equipment.

The police forensic department can trace the origin of stolen equipment from a pinhead trace of this chemical.

There are 15 rare earth minerals used in the invisible marker and this enables AustGuard to create up to 500,000 codes so each company can have a unique formula, said spokesman Max Simpson.

“Treatment costs around 50¢ per item and includes a visible tag with a bar code for asset management,” he said.

There are three treatments for marking metal, plastic and a special formula for treating chips and computer motherboards that won’t interfere with their performance.

The computer treatment was developed when $1000 chips were a major loss item a few years ago.

Now theft of motherboards is the major problem.

Employees upgrade their home computers by simply swapping the latest motherboards from a company computer with an older and slower version from their home computer.

The change isn’t always noticeable. The computer just runs slower and it isn’t until a service that the theft and downgrade is noticed.

The invisible chemical treatment has proved a major deterrent of theft for large mining companies in recent years, AustGuard spokesman, Max Simpson said.

“A South African mining company with 46,000 workers monitored the loss of office materials like biros, pencils, rulers and notebooks in the weeks running up to the beginning of the new school year,” he said.

“They lost more than $1 million from the stationery stores in a few weeks.

Edith Cowan’s head of security at its Churchland’s campus Eddie Alzier says the chemical marking is to discourage theft.

He said that his team will work with selected members of staff during the Christmas break and have everything marked by the time the new year starts in February.”

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