Catch that laptop thief!

Have you ever had the feeling of losing something dear to you? Something as dear as your laptop?

If I were to generalize and say that many university students now own their personal laptop, I doubt I will be receiving much flak for that. Simply because, that IS true! You are probably reading this blogpost from the comfort of your very own laptop right now, in fact. Now, imagine a day where you are in the cafeteria ordering food, and you left your belongings on the table. By the time you are back, you realize your laptop is gone! You have just become the unsuspecting victim of a case of laptop theft. It will be very hard to trace down the thief, but this blogpost is going to show you how you possibly could.

Introducing Hidden, an application that will help you recover your laptop, if it ever gets stolen. This application recently received much hype when someone in Oakland, California, managed to retrieve his stolen laptop using this software.

How Hidden works:

You just have to download the application and set up an account with a username and password. If (unluckily enough), your laptop gets stolen, you only have to login to the Hidden website and click “Stolen”. The application will then get to work, using a location base of 250 million wi-fi and cell access points all over the world, to track exactly where your laptop is on the globe! Moreover, the in-built camera on your laptop will take pictures (secretly, of course) of the person using your laptop. In the Oakland case, Hidden snapped pictures of the thief in all his “glory”- in the car, asleep on the couch, and even shirtless in bed! There were also screenshots taken of him trying to log onto the victim, Joshua Kaufman’s Facebook.

Armed with these pictures, he set up a tumblr blog, which went viral in just a few days. With everyone talking about these pictures, the police got to work and nabbed the culprit really soon.

As you can see, to allow Hidden to do its job, you’ll have to make sure the thief actually uses your laptop. So to make this more likely to happen, you should set up a guest account that is not password protected, on your laptop.

The catch? It only works on Macbooks! And it costs $15 a year for your personal computer, and has other price plans for multiple computers too.

For all you non-Mac users out there, don’t fret! There are other (possibly better) alternatives as well:

Preyproject is a free theft-tracking and recovery software that is compatible with Mac, Windows, Linux, Android. It’s free because it’s an open-source software. It has the same function as Hidden, just that its free! But one downside is that it is a relatively new software and is not as established as other paid apps like Undercover.

All these apps, however, are not all-encompassing. Very sophisticated computer thieves can still overcome such background security apps and retrieve your data. In spite of this fact, we should be heartened that 95% of thefts are made by the average guy out to make a quick buck, so it will still be good to have one of these apps installed as a prevention measure. You never know when it comes to such things, right?

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7 Responses to Catch that laptop thief!

  1. Bruce Spear says:

    Zowie! I knew that there is a similar app for iphone, but not for laptops: thanks! The story is told well, the images work just great! To make this doubly interesting, what if you offered your readers a few tips on what they might do on a regular basis, not only for stolen laptops, but for the inevitable disk drive crashing? That is to say, it might be interesting to expand your model for a good blog post to include a broader approach, and also, to include some of the web discussions, by the professionals (like the Virtual Suicide post of today on your blog) on this topic? Good work!

  2. Bruce Spear says:

    ps: you might also consider learning how to make your images smaller, linking them to larger images, and “align=left” to get the text to flow around them? Plus, the use of “more” to make it easier for people to scan your group blog for all recent articles?

    • Iris Ng says:

      Thanks for the advice, Dr. B! I will definitely keep these in mind for my future posts 🙂

      and I’ve added in the “more” link as well, hope it helps! 😀

  3. Sarah says:

    Hi Iris,

    what a great blog article! You got me with your introduction. It made me really curious so that I kept reading. In additon to that; the pictures arose my interest as well.
    I have to admit that the thought of losing my laptop really scares me. A couple months ago some of my belongings got stolen and since that negative experience; I am extremely careful what things I carry around and I cannot even imagine what would happen if I would lose my laptop. All my personal data and memories are on here.

    The software Hidden sounds very interesting. I will definately check it out online. I like the story you are telling to explain how it works. It makes it easy to understand. Besides, I like the pictures you embedded and the layout of your post.

    Very well done ! I enjoyed reading your post.
    Looking forward to reading more.


    • Iris Ng says:

      Hey Sarah!

      Thanks for your comment, it really encourages me to write more and write better! I will probably heed Dr B’s advice and touch on other ways we can protect our laptops, like when our hard disk crashes etc. Hope it will help you as well! :))

  4. Hi Iris NG,
    I am really appreciated by your great article, it is so interesting, I’ve never heard about it before, I also read lots of discussion in that side. As Dr.Bruce mentioned, I’m just guessing but it’s true that mobile phones get stolen more often than notebooks, probably due to sheer numbers but also because they are smaller and easier to steal. It would be better if you continue writing this post in detail. It was very useful for my skill of security. Thank you very much.
    Here is some links for your search:

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