Usually any heroic Norton Online Family story is about how using it can help parents see patterns in their children’s online behavior or reinforce their trust in their children’s good choices. Today we have a story of how Norton Online Family stopped a team of crooks in their tracks. You’re probably as surprised as I was.
When you started using Norton Online Family, you saw there are two components, the online portal, or account, that Mom or Dad set up, and the Norton Safety Minder application that runs on the child’s computer. That little application is the piece that reinforces the House Rules you’ve set with your kids and monitors website visits, online search activity, social network logins and so much more. And those features will be important to this story, so please read on.
Our heroes, Lee and his daughter Morgan, set up her brand new laptop with a copy of Norton AntiVirus and then installed Norton Online Family to help keep her safe while working online. A few months later, and it was a brisk February morning in their Oregon town, and Morgan was on her way to an early morning orchestra practice. She put her laptop under the seat of her mother’s van, expecting to retrieve it later that morning after practice.
Unbeknownst to the family, there was a team of crooks working their neighborhood of apartment complexes, engaged in an activity known as “car hopping”. Taking advantage of the relative anonymity of a big apartment area where people tend not to recognize all their neighbors, these bad guys would try the doors of all the cars, looking for unlocked ones. Finding any, they would rifle the car looking for goods to steal. That February morning, the tricky back door of Morgan’s mom’s van, the door that didn’t lock, allowed the crooks to walk off with her laptop, the one with Norton Online Family’s Safety Minder application installed on it.
When her mother picked her up, Morgan quickly noticed the laptop was gone. Her father reported theft to the apartment complex manager, since it had likely occurred while the car had been parked. They learned there had been other thefts and break-ins and that the perpetrators’ images were even caught on video. Still, it wasn’t enough for the police to work with so Lee and Morgan assumed their laptop was lost and that would be the end of the story.
A few weeks went by and family life had returned to normal. One evening, as Lee was working in his home office, he noticed an alert from Norton Online Family stating that “Morgan” had signed on after her approved hours (according to their House Rules). Knowing that the only computer named “Morgan” was the one stolen, Lee logged into the Norton Online Family account to see what else he could discern. Over the next several days, Lee saw lots of activity in his account, including visits to the local jail’s online inmate roster, online reports of a local convenience store robbery and specific search terms.
Still, this wasn’t enough for the police to act on so Lee just kept monitoring the activity and printing copies of the screen. Sometimes, he heard from the computer’s new owners. Once, again through the use of Norton Online Family, one of the people using Morgan’s computer responded to an alert for a blocked website. (Children are able to provide a reason for visiting a blocked site and able to ask permission by typing a response in the message field that goes back to the Norton Online Family parent.) Their reason for visiting the blocked site? “Bcuz.” Not the smartest or the cleverest of thieves.
Still, it was only when the user of Morgan’s stolen laptop decided to log into their social network account that the story gets really interesting. Norton Online Family logs the exact user account used to log in at your social networks. This meant that Lee, and later the police, would know the identity of the person using the laptop. Sure enough, when Lee reported this activity to the police, they became quite interested. Lee invited the officer to his office and together they began reviewing the activity history and then the social network information. While reviewing the account and especially some of the associated photographs, the police officer assigned to the case began to get very animated. Referring to a photo of the social networking account holder (a woman) embracing a man, the officer told Lee, “We don’t know her but we DO KNOW him.” It turned out the man was a “person of interest” to the local police.
Fast forward: A search warrant was obtained for the individual in the social network account, the crooks were caught and the laptop ultimately returned to Lee and his daughter Morgan. So even though the designers of Norton Online Family never intended their product for the life of a crime stopper, in this case, it was. You may know that the avatar for the product is a little dog wearing a cape. I suppose he's a real super hero!