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The police in California recovered a stolen laptop after a software program sent the owner of the laptop the suspect’s information and picture – taken by the installed camera in the laptop. A thief had broken into his apartment through a window while the owner was not home in his Oakland apartment on March 21st. Joshua Kaufman, an Oakland interaction designer, reported the theft in March, according to BBC news. The suspect, a cab driver named Muthanna Aldebashi, 27, has been charged with felony possession of stolen property.
Kaufman told the BBC how excited he was to get his Macbook back. He was “very happy and relieved that I don’t have to sit and watch someone else use my old computer.”
A program named Hidden, supplies the owner of the computer with the location and photographs taken by the Macbook’s internal camera, as well as shots of the Macbook’s screen display.
The program sent Kaufman pictures of a “bearded man with shaggy dark hair sleeping on a couch, sitting shirtless on a bed in front of the computer, and driving.”
Kaufman describes how “the photos were pretty boring – just some guy staring into a screen or sleeping or watching Youtube videos on his bed.” After failing to get a serious response from the Oakland investigators, Kaufman started blogging about the theft on his personal site http://thisguyhasmymacbook.tumblr.com/ where readers could follow Kaufman as he followed the bearded man’s use of his stolen computer – in both words and images.
Kaufman’s monitoring of the potential suspect started to attract attention of the US news media. Officer Joshi was contacted by ABC television’s Good Morning America, which revealed that Kaufman’s initial report had been filed in “error with theft reports for which no leads existed to aid the investigation.”
Officer Joshi describes how “law enforcement is always looking at technology as a way to be smarter with capturing criminals and solving crimes”, <showing that> technology that could be useful for us”.
When authorities eventually tracked down the new owner of the stolen Macbook, Mr. Aldebashi was not charged with the burglary and Mr. Kaufman has indicated that Mr. Aldebashi might have bought the laptop on the streets. However, had it not been for the information gathered through the program Hidden which Kaufman himself provided, investigators might never have found the stolen hardware. He wrote on his blog how he had provided an e-mail address linked to a car service. Since the media attention following the tracking and repossession of the stolen computer, the Hidden program has received a lot of attention by other consumers, who are willing to invest in this type of software as an extra guarantee in case of burglary.