Laptops

Technology helps woman find laptop thief

A clever use of technology helps a woman recover her stolen laptop and nail the thief.

It's the kind of story that just makes you happy. A young woman in White Plains, New York, Kait Duplaga, had her laptop stolen from the apartment she shared with two roommates. Unfortunately for the thief, Duplaga worked at an Apple store and had all the latest software applications installed on her laptop, which led to its return.

First of all, she subscribed to a service that allowed her to gain access to her computer from any connected Mac with the Leopard operating system. Her particular laptop also came standard with Photo Booth, an application created by Apple that uses a built-in iSight camera to take pictures.

All the fun started when a friend text-messaged Duplaga and congratulated her on getting her laptop back because she'd popped up as being online. Of course, it was actually the thief doing some online shopping, using the stolen laptop.

So yeah, you guessed it, Duplaga was able to snap a picture of the thief's face as he used her laptop. That would have been a pretty good clue on its own, but one of her roommates recognized the guy from having attended one of their parties earlier in the month.

Wonder if they were able to use the Photo Booth shot as his mug shot?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

18 comments
Florante
Florante

Is laptop tracker available today?

PatrickFagan
PatrickFagan

technology to retrieve stolen laptops should be a must on all laptops, personally I have had my laptop stolen twice already from being on my college campus... does anyone know the best software for windows to use so i can get my laptop back in case it happens again?

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

that includes 'Doors Shut' V2.5 as well! Also, invest in 'Hide Machine' V4.5 Finally...'Keep Locked' V1.67 is a good deterrent! If you follow these applications you will not face any Getting Back V3 issues or need to upgrade to it at all!

seggsyuk
seggsyuk

I had a very similar incident. One of my users left her new laptop logged in when she left work. I connected to it remotely in the evening to do some work on it and found the mouse moving of it's own accord browsing files. I fired up the built in camera to see the contract cleaning supervisor's surprised face staring at me. Needless to say the contract was terminated the next day, and I had great ammunition to emphasise the importance of having password locked screen savers and of logging off at end of play....

flipmode33
flipmode33

Get yourself Lojack for laptops. 90% recovery rate. Awesome stuff.

membership
membership

If you use a password on your laptop and the thief cant figure it out they will probly wipe the laptop and reinstall rendering your software useless. hardware solution would probly be the best bet

techrepublic@
techrepublic@

... that is 75% not 90%. From their site: "* Our patented software is hidden and virtually tamperproof." Right! Not even the BIOS is tamper proof in most computers... LoJack simply calls home (nothing new) and hides it self (definitely nothing new) so what can they patent from this? A smart thief will simply get all the data it wants from the system, wipe the system clean and install an OS. LoJack wont even run. Loosing (stolen or not) a computer means three kinds of problems: - Exposure of private or confidential data. This is, by far the most problematic. Encryption is the solution for this. LoJack is no solution to this problem. Personally, this is what most worries me so I have all my laptops disks strongly encrypted. - Loss of data (e.g. work documents, personal photos). Frequent redundant backups are the solution for this. Hardware will eventually fail anyway so LoJack is a very weak solution for this problem. - Loss of hardware. This is probably the least problematic. A laptop can be ensured reducing the financial risk and it's cheaper than LoJack.

bowks14
bowks14

LoJack is great, but when I put it on my laptop, which had a Windows partition as well as a Linux partition, it would never boot up again. It just got stuck in a loop. I had to wipe the whole thing, but luckily I had all important data backed up...

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Of course, having a web cam built into the laptop would make it a lot easier, like this one did.

techrepublic@
techrepublic@

Be it BIOS, XP, Vista, Linux, BSD or what ever. The data must be strongly encrypted to be secured. So according to you, thiefs only steal when no one is looking. Where I live thiefs aren't that shy! :)

eric
eric

Virtually all laptops will not remove the passwords by unplugging the CMOS battery. It is not the same as a desktop motherboard. And I would have to disagree, laptops and computers are stolen all the time from homes and businesses.

Homefarmhew
Homefarmhew

But if you are mugged in the railway station and all your luggage stolen? The laptop will not fit in my money belt.

WiseITOne
WiseITOne

XP Passwords are useless. One word: Ophcrack. Easy as that. Bios password might be a better option, but then all you have to do is pop the battery or wipe the Bios. Really the answer is to keep your laptop with you at all times. How many people get a laptop stolen while it is with them? Don't keep it in the car or trunk, just take it with you. It's 7 lbs and if you lose it with all the data its a PITA to have to rebuild and also a waste of company time/money while you gather all your stuff together. Lojack is for people who aren't responsible. I would sleep with my laptop if needed. There is no excuse for a stolen laptop, it just means you weren't being responsible. Hard stance but it is the truth. I use Kruptos to encrypt my confidencial files. I had a manager come in and say his laptop was stolen from his car...it was sitting in the back seat. It isn't even safe in the trunk. All he had to do was grab his back and take it inside. But I think anyone that has to come in and say they lost a laptop or it was stolen should feel like a shmuck. Sure no one is perfect but follow the above and it won't happen...stepping down from my soap box now.

techrepublic@
techrepublic@

Of course, it makes no sense "spending far more than the machines are worth to protect them" but protecting very effectively the machines (and data) can be done for a few percent of the machine value. Your machines may not have any private or confidential data but I know many people that do have and those cases must be protected even if most thiefs "don't care about your data anyway." Putting the head in the sand isn't an effective security approach.

Minstrel Mike
Minstrel Mike

That's what most managers at companies ignore. We don't have any private data at all on our machines, yet we're spending far more than the machines are worth to protect them. Hardware theft is the number one reason for stealing a laptop--they don't care about your data anyway. I suspect < 1% of the laptops in the US actually have any data useful to a generic thief.

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