LoJack for Laptops (the Free Version)

INSERT DESCRIPTIONPhoto from the University of Washington.


If you’re reading this post on a laptop computer, rest easy. Your computer may have just become far less appealing to thieves.

The University of Washington has released a free program that will track your laptop if it’s stolen. If the program is installed on a computer with a built-in camera, it will even send you a photo of the thief at the keyboard.

It’s called Adeona, after the Roman goddess of safe returns, and it’s a lot like LoJack — the silent alarm and recovery system for cars — for laptops.

We’ve blogged before about Levitt and Ian Ayres‘s paper on how Lojack drives down overall car theft because thieves can’t be sure which car is protected and which one is not.

The officially licensed LoJack for Laptops software has been available for purchase since 2006. But with a free version now also in the mix, far more laptops will be protected by anti-theft tracking tools that could lead police right to a thief’s door.

What would crime look like if every car and computer came with a free tracking device — or every bicycle, bulldozer, and boat?

Alisa Stoll

My son had his laptop stolen in August - he had installed LoJack but then Dell had reformated his machine multiple times - vista home premium. He got his machine back on Saturday so it took 2 1/2 months but he got it back. It now has vista home ultimate on it. So LoJack was able to reinstall itself from the bios multiple times and was able to provide the police the information needed to recover it. Course he didn't get back the IPOD, laptop bag, and other stuff in the bag. Still the laptop and powercord were the most expensive items in the bag.

Don't know if the open sourse version will work as well but I can give a testimonial to LoJack and that it can survive multipe reinstalls.



Sounds like another use for magical Duct Tape.

And then the reformating of a computer HD.

Paul K

@26: Remote kill would be very popular with hackers. They would figure out the codes and then start killing laptops and smartphones worldwide. Think how much fun they would have.
Note that a thief or fence will not connect to the network (Wifi or Ethernet) while inspecting the laptop - why would they? They want to see what is on the hard disk (such as credit card numbers and passwords to Amazon and the like) 1st. So, they will kill any attempts at tracking or notifying.
Remember, this is an arms race - the other side (the bad guys) are motivated to thwart anything you do to stop them. LoJack is a different matter since the car thief does not have time initially to find and disable it (kind of conspicuous) and it is active all the time (unlike a laptop).


You would think that computer suppliers would be able to install a remote kill of some sort once the computer was logged to the internet. I know that I was dumbfounded after registering my ipod that when it was stolen the could not deactivate it. It would seem that the only reason not to would be for Apple to profit from the black-market for ipods (ie I purchased a new ipod to replace my old one).


Why not just make something like a key fob, did I get the right, that needs to be in proximity of the computer before you are even able to turn it on? If you can't turn it on you can't use it. Seems really easy to me unless of course you keep the thing in the bag with the laptop!


Lojack, like most similar solutions, is not bulletproof. See cryptome.org/lojack-hack.pdf for more details.

However, as Boffo mentions, most criminals are criminals because they are not intelligent so it does work as a deterrent.

I do applaud UWash for providing this as an Open Source solution like it should be, as Lojack sold a solution that provided more false sense of security than actual likelihood of recovery. The point of such a solution is act as a deterrent, but Lojack marketed their solution as much more than that which IMHO was deceiving to the consumer. Adeona therefore looks like a great alternative..


Fantastic comment Boffo.

I'm wondering how it works. I don't know about yours, but I'm pretty sure my laptop doesn't have a built-in gps. How does having this software communicate with you after the laptop has been stolen?

I think the one regard in which Boffo is underestimating the thieves is in that they won't notice this trend. If my amateur knowledge of delinquent culture is half worthwhile, they're atypically perceptive of those sorts of trends in what to steal.

Unfortunately they're not perceptive of the kind of lifestyle they've chosen in general, but...

Jimmy T

Many OS installs are password protected. Does this software run only when logged in? If not, a "dumb" thief wouldn't be able to login in the first place, thus wouldn't get caught.

A hardware solution with the help of manufacturers would be more viable.


To help make sure that the Computrace Agent cannot be disabled by criminals, Absolute Software works with computer manufacturers to pre-install a portion of the agent in the BIOS. The BIOS-based Computrace Agent has the ability to survive operating re-installations, hard-drive reformats, and hard drive replacements.

The Bios-based agent will secretly re-install Computrace LoJack for Laptops on a stolen computer, so our Theft Recovery Team can track and recover the stolen computer even if the hard drive has been replaced or tampered with.

If OEM's standardize on an open source standard this could be a great thing, but right now Computrace has the edge because they have the bios.

Jeff S.

This may not prevent thieves who can reformat a heard drive. But I think it will be most effective against thieves who are trying to steal information of off a computer, which you would lose in a reformat.


I just went to the webite of the product. Looks like you can embed the software into the bios of the laptop, which will reinstall Adeona even if the hard drive is replaced.


They make it sound almost fun to track the thief, take his photo, etc. I'm tempted to let my laptop be stolen.

By the way, the FAQ for this program makes it clear that it's intended to thwart "common criminals" who are not tech savvy. The program can be easily uninstalled or wiped from the hard-drive.


You ever have a family member or friend ask you a ridiculously stupid question about a computer issue?

Most thieves are not as smart as your family members.

Will some bypass it, sure. You can bypass LoJack too. Still, its recovered thousands of stolen vehicles and equipment.


To be effective the system would have to be hardwired into the board. Even that could be bypassed, but it most likely wouldn't be worth doing for your average laptop. A software LoJack would be totally useless as a thief is not required to run the software installed on your laptop.


What's stopping the thief from reformatting windows and thus bypassing the security?

The actual LoJack for computers takes quite a bit more maneuvering to make sure the LoJack system is completely removed.


Oh, and Boffo, if I had to work in an IT department of all things I think I'd take the life of crime instead.

"Plug it in, m'am. You're going to have to call an electrician, not me, if your outlet isn't working m'am..."

Steven Peters

This is a good idea, but it's pretty easy to put a piece of masking tape over the camera and block the pictures it takes.


Gregory, you seem to think that most criminals are evil geniuses. That simply doesn't reflect reality.

Most criminals are criminals because they're too dumb to make a living legitimately. Yes, there are a few sophisticated thieves, but this is a tiny, tiny minority.

The average thug smashing into first floor apartments or snatching computers from inattentive coffee shop patrons isn't going to be bright enough to disable this program. If he was, he'd be working in an IT department and making much more money with far less risk.

I think the worry with this software is not that criminals can defeat it. It's that they may be too dumb to recognize the potential that laptops may have this software and the risk/consequences of getting caught.

That, and the possibility that hackers and the government (who are smart) will use it to track you or take control of your machine.


I expect evading it is as simple as forcing it to boot from a Linux LiveCD and blowing away the old operating system after stealing anything potentially useful.

I expect it'll usually be effective nonetheless, though.


new theivery will evolve and find a way past the gatekeeper.