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What Is the Best Way To Track Stolen Gadgets? 101

An anonymous reader writes "Now that gadgets can determine their location and phone home, many companies are creating tools for finding lost and stolen gadgets. It sounds like a simple process, but this NY Times article describes a number of wildly different approaches. Some report all of the information back to the owner while others deliberately keep the owner in the dark to avoid dangerous confrontations. Some start grabbing pictures from the web cameras and logging keystrokes. Others just record IP addresses. Some don't do anything but record serial numbers to make it easier for the police to do their job. Are sophisticated systems dangerous because the tracking mechanisms could be misused to violate the privacy of the owner? Are the stakes different when a company purchases the software and gives the IT manager the ability to track everyone in the company? What are the best practices that are emerging? What should I recommend if my boss reads this article and wants to track our laptops and Blackberries?"
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What Is the Best Way To Track Stolen Gadgets?

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  • by v1 ( 525388 ) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @09:40AM (#29185737) Homepage Journal

    No matter what you as an individual do, it's nice knowing that as a whole, it's becoming a lot more dangerous to steal expensive toys, it's providing a deterrent for everyone. Built-in cameras and GPS, internet connected, really, you'd have to be quite a gambler nowadays to steal things with these features. We keep reading articles about thieves getting their pictures emailed to the owners, gadgets can brick themselves with a remote command, as well as the clandestine remote back into the owner's server with their current IP etc. I'm all for it.

    My laptop's practically got a mind of its own if it takes a walk. Doesn't make me feel like I can be any less cautious with it, but sure makes me a little more at peace when I hear someone else lost their gear and there's nothing they can do about it short of file an insurance claim.

  • by pikine ( 771084 ) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @11:03AM (#29186899) Journal

    If you use a software tracking approach, thieves will learn to put tape over the webcam, and not use it until they ask someone in the black market to reinstall the operating system for a fee, or learn to reinstall operating system by themselves. This is just like how thieves learned to use the credit card immediately after they steal it before you have a chance to cancel the card.

    Other approaches taken will lead to workarounds too. If you have a database of serial numbers and require legit second hand market to verify the serial number before going on sale, the thief will just keep the gadget for themselves, for their friends, or sell it in the black market. If you're able to remotely brick the device, the thief will still be able to use it for a while, and then just steal another one. I'm sure thieves don't mind using new gadgets all the times.

"Oh my! An `inflammatory attitude' in alt.flame? Never heard of such a thing..." -- Allen Gwinn, allen@sulaco.Sigma.COM