Thursday, June 2, 2011

GOTCHA! Man hunts down stolen laptop - using the laptop

Prime News


Jun 3, 2011

GOTCHA! Man hunts down stolen laptop - using the laptop

Mr Joshua Kaufman reunited with his MacBook in San Francisco on Wednesday, about 1-1/2 weeks after it was stolen in a burglary. -- PHOTOS: ASSOCIATED PRESS

SAN FRANCISCO: The images began arriving in Mr Joshua Kaufman's inbox: grainy, low-lit photos of a man curled up on a couch, sound asleep; the same man propped up against pillows on a bed, shirtless.

Who was this stranger sitting with his stolen laptop?

Mr Kaufman, an interaction designer, collected the images and took them to police, who did not help him. So he went online, publishing the pictures on Twitter and on a blog titled This Guy Has My MacBook.

'It went super-viral,' he said.

On the same day that he posted his website on Twitter, police came calling. On Tuesday, they arrested a 27-year-old cab driver, Muthanna Aldebashi. By Wednesday, Mr Kaufman had his laptop back.

He is the latest example of people, not police, using technological tools to help find their own stolen property such as cars, cellphones and digital cameras.

The return of Mr Kaufman's laptop was the culmination of a one-man crusade of online sleuthing, social networking, and moments of voyeuristic creepiness - aided by a software called Hidden, developed by the London-based Flipcode.

Part tracking system, part nanny camera, the software is equipped with location positioning.

Many portable electronics, including some cameras, now come with wireless Internet capability and automatic geographic tagging of any photos taken - a helpful tool when trying to see where a thief has been hanging out - and a step beyond the LoJack tracking system invented two decades earlier that emits a signal from a stolen vehicle.

Mr Kaufman had just moved into a new apartment in Oakland, California, when a burglar broke in, taking the laptop, an electronic book reader and more on March 21.

In response, he activated the Hidden software he had installed on his laptop. It began sending him photos taken by the computer's built-in camera of the unauthorised user three days later.

Mr Kaufman said most of the images 'were honestly really boring photos - people staring into the screen. But some were definitely more humorous'.

Among them was a screenshot of the man logging into his Gmail account, which showed an e-mail that appeared to include the name of a business. Mr Kaufman did a quick Internet search that revealed it was a cab company in nearby Berkeley, which he assumed was the man's workplace.

Mr Kaufman submitted the information to police, but said they were unwilling to help and did not respond to numerous follow-up e-mail messages.

So he turned to the Internet. He posted some of the photos, including captions such as 'I really don't want to know what this guy is doing with my MacBook' for the image of the shirtless man in bed.

Mr Kaufman said he received a call from Oakland police spokesman Holly Joshi on the day he included a link to his blog. 'From that point on, they seemed to be on my side completely,' he said.

Police arranged a cab ride from Aldebashi and nabbed him when they recognised his face. He is being held in an Oakland jail on $20,000 bail, and was scheduled to be arraigned today.


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