Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How not to steal a laptop

I have had my own laptop stolen just once, from the trunk of a locked car parked in a shopping mall, several years ago. I was putting some packages that I purchased in the trunk, and I guess someone decided to remove not only my purchases but my laptop as well. There are some happier laptop stories, and this one is just so funny, I had to share with you.

Those of you that aren't Mac users, by way of introduction all of their laptops come with built-in cameras and software that allows you to take pictures of yourself, or anyone else sitting in front of the thing, called PhotoBooth. Earlier this summer, a Michigan-based headhunter by the name of Damian Zikakis had his laptop stolen when someone broke into his offices. He replaced it a few days later and because he had used Mozy's online backup service, thought that he was covered at least in terms of being able to bring back his files from the Internet backup. This took some time to recreate all of his files.

When Zikakis had a moment to examine the layout of his new machine, he "found several incriminating files. The individuals who had my computer did not realize that the Mozy client was installed and running in the background. They had also used PhotoBooth to take pictures of themselves and had downloaded a cell phone bill that had their name on it." Zikakis did a bit of head hunting on his own and contacted the appropriate police department with this information. They were able to recover his computer, and now have the task of figuring out who actually took the laptop originally and what law enforcement options to pursue.

This is similar to another case reported earlier this year when built-in Mac remote desktop software was used to recover another laptop from a thief who happened to boot the machine up and not notice that he was automatically connected via an IM session.

Note to potential thieves: wipe your stolen laptop's disk before use.

And for those of you that want to do something more, there are a variety of software tools for both Mac and Windows that can aid in the recovery of a stolen laptop, here are the ones that I know about:

Oribicule's Undercover for Macs
MyLaptopGPS just for Windows
Computrace LoJack for Laptops has versions for both Mac and Windows
Adeona is a free open source product for both Mac and Windows

No comments:

About Me

My photo
David Strom has looked at hundreds of computer products over a more than 20 year career in IT and computer journalism. He was the founding editor-in-chief of Network Computing magazine, and now writes for Baseline, Information Security, Tom's Hardware, and the New York Times.