Establishing Digital Trust: Don't Sacrifice Security for Convenience
On February 4, 2013, Dom del Torto of London's Big Animal Design & Animation Studio found that someone had broken into his flat on London's Holloway Road, and had stolen his iPad and his MacBook Pro (h/t CNET News).
"I was very fond of both of those things and I was sad that they were gone," del Torto wrote in a Tumblr post. "I phoned the police and told them what had happened and they were very sympathetic, they came and dusted for fingerprints and consoled me."
Then things got interesting.
He'd installed the Hidden anti-theft software on his laptop -- if a device with Hidden installed on it is stolen, the software can use the device's camera to take photos of the thief, grab screenshots of the device in use, and pinpoint the device's location.https://o1.qnsr.com/log/p.gif?;n=203;c=204650394;s=9477;x=7936;f=201801171506010;u=j;z=TIMESTAMP;a=20392931;e=i
For a month, del Torto's laptop didn't connect to the Internet, so he had no idea where it was.
Then, on March 23, it showed up in Tehran, Iran, more than 3,000 miles away from del Torto's London flat.
He's posted several photos of his laptop's new owners that were taken using Hidden, along with some screenshots of the ways they're using his laptop, including listening to music and viewing photos.
And while his post is very entertaining -- and the idea of being able to follow a stolen laptop from London to Tehran is kind of fascinating -- the whole story also demonstrates the limitations of many anti-theft solutions. While del Torto now knows where his laptop is and how it's being used, there's nothing he can really do to get it back.
UPDATE: Thanks to the widespread publicity del Torto's post received, he updated the post soon after with the following: "As the story circulated, I started to receive messages from concerned individuals warning of privacy issues and the possible harm and distress the blog may cause the people in the photos. ... Then one of the people in the photos contacted me and asked me to remove the pictures. They were very upset."
He clarified, "The people shown on the blog site are not thieves. The safety and well being of private individuals is more important than any possession, although I still miss my laptop I do not wish ill on anyone. The people who now have my laptop have been good enough to get in touch and therefore the tracking software has done [its] job."