How to trace a lost laptop

Discussion in 'Wireless Internet' started by Dan, Jun 26, 2004.

  1. Dan

    Dan Guest

    My friend recently bought a Toshiba laptop, but it was stolen within a
    couple days. He doesn't have insurance on it and he is quite upset. I read
    somewhere that if this stolen laptop is ever connected to the internet, the
    law enforcement could track it down. I am not sure, if this will work for a
    new laptop as well or he should have already installed any hardware/software
    for this to be possible. Please let me know, if any of you have any idea of
    any way of tracking down.

    Dan, Jun 26, 2004
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  2. Dan

    Quaoar Guest

    It is possible in theory. In practice, your friend is out of luck.

    Quaoar, Jun 26, 2004
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  3. Dan

    wk Guest

    Some manufacturers keep a list of stolen computers by serial number.
    If some subsequent (possibly innocent) purchaser of the computer
    contacts the manufacturer for technical support, authorities can be
    notified. It's a long shot, but it's probably worth reporting the loss
    to Toshiba (if he has the serial number or has registered the warranty).
    wk, Jun 26, 2004
  4. Dan

    Lucas Tam Guest

    Probably not - you usually need to sign up for those services.

    Get your friend to report the serial number of the laptop. Tha'ts as much
    as he can do.

    It's a good lesson for your friend to learn. Better now than later when the
    laptop is full of sensitive information.

    A laptop should not be left unlocked, in plain view in a car, unpassword
    protected, unattended.
    Lucas Tam, Jun 26, 2004
  5. Dan

    mikey Guest

    Toshiba keep a list os stolen laptops serial numbers, which you can check.
    I'd suggest contacting them to add yours and ask the procedure for reporting
    if it's found.
    mikey, Jul 8, 2004
  6. Dan

    f/f george Guest

    To answer the original question....yes there is software that can be
    installed cheaply, CompuTrace, but
    it has to be on the computer BEFORE it is stolen. I have heard about
    computers being caught thru the thieves using the software already on
    the computer, AOL, etc. but most thieves just resell it and the new
    person redoes the drive. CompuTrace will work even AFTER a format.
    f/f george, Jul 8, 2004
  7. Dan

    Ian Stirling Guest

    For some values of format.

    First thing I do when I get a new laptop is to boot from a floppy, and
    run a low-level write to the whole disk blanking it, to check that
    there are no bad sectors.
    After this, I fdisk it and install linux.
    Ian Stirling, Jul 8, 2004
  8. Dan

    AndrewJ Guest

    LOL, there are a thousand notebooks stolen every day. How many thieves
    do you think do what you do?
    AndrewJ, Jul 10, 2004
  9. Dan

    Ian Stirling Guest

    I dunno.
    I've no personal knowledge on this, but a friend was offered laptops
    cheap with no hard drives, from a man in a pub.
    Ian Stirling, Jul 11, 2004
  10. Dan

    f/f george Guest

    Supposedly CompuTrace will work even AFTER all that!
    Never tried, can't say for sure, but they say they put a small
    undeletable partition that calls home EVERYTIME the laptop is
    connected to the net. ONLY when you tell them the laptop is missing do
    they act on the data and then they notify the police.
    The cost is like $75.00US yearly but to remove the partition is like
    another $250.00US.
    It was a big deal on the news last year when they caught some guy that
    had stolen one and CompuTrace found the laptop.
    f/f george, Jul 11, 2004
  11. Dan

    Mark Guest

    I have no affiliation to them and don't own a copy...just saw a pamphlet on
    it last week.
    Mark, Jul 11, 2004
  12. Dan

    Greg Surratt Guest

    I know at least one that doesn't - a co-worker who owns his own
    computer business on the side was served with four felony possession
    of stolen property warrants last week when a customer booted a
    computer he sold her and it had wallpaper with a legal notice that it
    belonged to a local university.
    Greg Surratt, Jul 11, 2004
    Jeff Liebermann, Jul 11, 2004
  14. Computrace can be disabled with a simple:
    fdisk /mbr
    as can most "pre-boot" type of trackers. See:
    for a comparison chart.

    I recently worked on a laptop that would pop up a security warning
    screen on startup and used an obvious custom BIOS. It had to have a
    USB dongle, and the exact serial number hard disk, or it wouldn't
    boot. The customer worked for a company that really valued it secrets
    and wanted me to determine if it could be cracked. Well, I couldn't,
    but I did manage to disable the boot password by simply borrowing the
    socketed EEPROM chip BIOS from an identical "normal" machine. That
    sent them into a temporary panic until I explained that I hadn't
    cracked the data on the hard disk. I doubt if the average laptop
    thief will go through such trouble.

    Remember the original Melissa worm and how the perpetrator (David L.
    Smith) allegedly got caught? Melissa was an MS Word document with a
    self-replicating Word macro worm payload. The Word document could
    have been traced to its originating machine by the identifying info in
    the header. This was not used to catch him but some interesting
    discussions appeared as part of the story.
    On installation, Microsoft patches Word, Excel, IE6, Ouchlook, etc
    binaries with unique identifying information which includes an
    assortement of identifying features of the machine on which the
    document was created. You can see for yourself by simply comparing
    two identical MS Word documents created on two different machines.

    The identifying information is rather pervasive. For example, if you
    change the SID (system ID) of a W2K or XP box with:
    all the MS Office applications, IE6, and Norton AntiVirus will demand
    to be re-installed. They don't really need to be reinstalled, but
    they do want to have a match between the stored SID in the binaries,
    and that of the machine. MS hasn't had any bad publicity on the
    subject, but I consider it to be a gross breach of privacy and an
    obvious target for abuse.
    Finding your laptop and getting it back are two different animals. I
    had my laptop stolen out of my truck (broken glass everywhere). The
    thieves tried to boot it and later format it. Both failed because of
    a BIOS based boot password utility. So, they destroyed the floppy
    drive by shoving a floppy in backwards and pounded on the cdrom drive.

    The local sheriff recovered the laptop and notified me as the boot
    screen had my name and phone number prominently displayed. Getting it
    back from the sheriff's property division was an ordeal because they
    wanted to keep the laptop as evidence for the trial. Discussions with
    various other "victims" of burglary indicate that this is common and
    the it takes nearly forever to get perhaps half of their posessions
    back. When I saw the warehouse full of recovered stolen property, I
    undestood the magnitude of the problem.

    To agrivate the complexity, I filed an insurance claim for the lost
    laptop before it was recovered. The insurance company agreed to pay
    me $250 (eBay price minus deductable) for the piece of junk (Compaq
    Presario 1620). When the laptop was recovered, I performed an
    un-natural act and offered to return the money. They declined
    indicating that the processing cost exceeded the amount involved.
    Jeff Liebermann, Jul 11, 2004
  15. Dan

    Ian Stirling Guest

    It won't.
    There is no such thing as an undeletable partition.
    If you can write to the disk to create it, you can write to the disk
    to delete it.
    It may be hard with most software.

    Not to mention that the software has to run on the processor of the
    This means that something must call it and execute it.
    It's not going to know how to work the linux networking system, even
    if it got run.
    Well, that's hardly relevant if new hard drive is under $250.
    Ian Stirling, Jul 11, 2004
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