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?

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  1. gregory says:

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

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  2. Braden says:

    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.

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  3. Boffo says:

    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.

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  4. Paul says:

    But what happens if the thief just re-formats the hard drive?

    Seems like that’s the first thing a thief would do — re-format the drive and re-install the programs.

    But maybe there is something I’m not getting.

    ~~~

    Someone please email me when they invent lojack for teenagers. I’d just like to know where mine are some of the time and for them to come home once in a while.

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  5. Derick says:

    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…

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  6. Derick says:

    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…”

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  7. Steven Peters says:

    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.

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  8. Nick says:

    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.

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