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Let’s say you are sitting around your local StarBuck$ interneting on their Wi-Fi on your shiny new overpriced Alienware laptop. You have had three or four coffees and you are eye-balling the bathroom something fierce. You notice some sketchy looking dudes around you. What do you do to secure your precious lappy? Do you shutdown and bring your laptop into the bathroom with you? Do you have a Kensington lock and do you chain that machine to your table? Do you have some other gadget type alarm? Or do you trust the other patrons to stop a thief? (HA! Good luck with that!)

I have seen every security option available and NOTHING is fool-proof. I have witnessed someone picking up a table and simply removing the laptop lock from the leg and running with the machine – In a crowded food court! The worst one I think was a guy who decided to bring it with him into the bathroom and set it down on the little table by the door. He did his business, washed his hands and when he went to turn around, he discovered it was jacked!

What do you do then? Maybe your machine is covered on your home owners or renters insurance but that still won’t get back your data or computer. So a little application called LocatePC that lives on your Windows-based machine gives you a little more added security. All it does is monitor your IP address. If it detects a change in your IP it sends a pre-configured email. Interesting concept and best of all it is free. You download the small installer from here and run through a super simple setup that asks you for your email address, an email server that does POP3 and the message you want to send. They recommend adding your Model number, Serial and any other pertinent data you can think of. Here are some screen shots of the configurable options.

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After setting her up I was prompted with this warning:

That is a really smart warning! Especially for some users that are only able to retrieve their email via VPN. (I think it should say maybe you want to use your Gmail account…). Now this is supposed to be “Covert” software so there is no task bar icon or program file associated with it.

You can however press Alt+Shift+Home to bring up its settings window. It needs to run at startup to do its thing in case of an IP change. If it is not running it will not do anything!

I simulated an IP change and was greeted within 3 minutes with an email from myself. My email looked a little something like this:

************************************
Message sent: 05/21/08 09:02:50 (universal time: 05/21/08 13:02:50)

Computer’s host name: AskTheAdminTablet
Logged in Windows account name: AskTheAdmin

Computer’s web IP address reported by ip.locatepc.com: 38.0.0.0 (CHANGED FOR OBVIOUS REASONS!)
To learn more about this IP address, use the IP tests at www.dnsstuff.com.

Computer’s local IP address(es):
Adapter 1: 192.168.1.29

Computer’s MAC address(es):
Adapter 1 (Linksys LNE100TX Fast Ethernet Adapter(LNE100TX v4) – Packet Scheduler Miniport): 00-14-BF-56-54-DA

Trace route from computer to www.microsoft.com:
Hop Name/IP Addr
1 (CHANGED FOR OBVIOUS REASONS!)
2 gi1-46.3836.mpd01.jfk01.atlas.cogentco.com [66.250.10.73]
3 te4-3.mpd03.jfk02.atlas.cogentco.com [154.54.24.146]
4 Request timed out
5 iij.lax05.atlas.cogentco.com [154.54.12.118]
6 ge-0-3-0-44.nyc-64cb-1a.ntwk.msn.net [207.46.37.2]

Identifying information (owner name/address, computer brand/model/serial number):

AskTheAdmin Karl L. Gechlik HP 2710P Tablet Serial# saslakslp1

————————————
IF YOU RECEIVED THIS MESSAGE AFTER YOUR COMPUTER WAS STOLEN:
Show this message to law enforcement authorities. They may be able to use it to identify the ISP, and the ISP can probably find out which account was using the computer when the email was sent. This may lead to the identification of the perpetrator(s) and the recovery of your computer.

————————————
This message was automatically created and sent by LocatePC v1.5.0
LocatePC web site: http://www.locatepc.com

Now I don’t know how much the local authorities are actually going to help you but, now you have some information about where your machine is at least virtually. You can then do some super sleuthing to track down where that IP is. Using free tools like this one that lives at http://www.seomoz.org/ip2loc

Your results will look something like this:

Uh-oh! It looks like our laptop is sitting in our office… Oh wait it was just a test :) No ass kicking neccessary this morning!

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