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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!

  1. cooper
    July 11, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Question: A new tablet was lifted during setup of software. Lo-jack was not activated and your Free tool was not loaded. Is there a service to locate the unique MAC in the tablet?

  2. Johnny 5
    May 22, 2008 at 10:29 am

    So does anyone know what the law is in the US of A? If I give this info to the cops will they look into it or laugh at me? You sure made that review fun to read Karl!

    • Karl L. Gechlik
      May 22, 2008 at 10:55 am

      Sadly it is on a case by case basis and the Law will only do something if the feel you have a compelling argument. But honestly think about Joe Cop and how technical he is. He might even know what an IP address is. So the one thing I left out of my article is the number one rule for all laptops:

      Always create a BIOS password and a Hard Drive password!

  3. Mike
    May 22, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Very nice style of writing and very well written in general. An interesting read. Great arty!

  4. Mark O'Neill
    May 22, 2008 at 9:41 am

    Well if your computer is stolen and you are able to track it down using this tool, then the police are obligated to at least go to the location and check it out!

    If not, then go round there yourself with a couple of heavies and get your lappy back!!! :-)

    • Karl L. Gechlik
      May 22, 2008 at 10:12 am

      I don't know if Brooklyn New York's reputation precedes us but I would feel sorry for the fool that tries to jack my laptop.

      Besides the fact what I would do if I found him...

      There is also my honey pot account on the machine... The only one that shows up on the welcome screen. It has no password and ohhhh boy if the user logs into it. It runs some group policy scripts, deletes my files, snaps some pictures, uploads them and starts playing nightmare on elm street music. (Maybe a little Rick Rolling would be more appropriate?)

      And thanks for all the kind words guys! Back to modifying my scripts!

      • bob
        June 2, 2008 at 1:15 pm

        So what happens if someone accidentally opens that account, a child, or even you perhaps? Poof! All your files are gone! Lets just hope you backed up!

      • Tom T
        August 24, 2009 at 5:00 pm

        I really like the Honey Pot Idea, but would suggest that is would be more natural if it was maybe the only non password protected login of several.

        As I understand this and other programs, they do not activate until AFTER the user login and so if you have only password protected accounts on the computer, it is just as likely that the thief will wipe the drive or in the alternative boot from a DVD or USB stick to get at your DATA. So you essentially have to have a No Password Required account to attract their curiosity. Or if you really want to be devious, put a simple password on the login and then make the password hint simple, for instance if the password is "abcabcabc" the hint might be abc x 3

        Rather then deleting the files, I might suggest that you zip or compress them with a password, then erase the scro[t with the password in it. Or auto generate a password and bury it in the registry.

        Now for my questions?
        How do you hide (not display) a User Login Account?
        How do you implement a script to take the users picture?
        How do you override the instruction to turn that cute little green light on when the camera is hot?
        Why do I have to give them my email account password? (Anyone ever hear of Covert front companies for US and foreign spy companies?) (Anyone ever hear of 1,000,000 credit card account numbers being hacked?) I would much rather pay them a dollar a month and use their email server :)

        And finally I would suggest that you not alarm and alert the thief to the fact that he has been taken in by a honey pot with symbolic music and screen displays. Just let the display of two officers in his face be sufficient.

  5. Brainiac
    May 22, 2008 at 1:48 am

    Karl, thanks for this excellent tool.
    I frequently leave my PC unattanded so this can definitely come in handy. While I keep an emergency back up copy of my essential files I can't even imagine loosing my system .

    • Karl L. Gechlik | AskTheAdmin.com
      May 22, 2008 at 6:26 am

      Wow Brainiac you are a brave dude! This is a great re-active method but why not be proactive as well? Get that $10 laptop lock or a LARGE dog and chain him to your lappy...

      Don't wait until it happens to you! (Do I sound like a PSA?)

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