How to Retrieve a Stolen Laptop

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 2, 2009 2:00 PM CDT
An unassuming web cam proved the undoing of one laptop thief.   (Shutterstock)
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(Newser) – When a burglar stole Joshua Alston’s laptop, there wasn’t much the police could do. But the Newsweek writer realized there was something he could do. Alston had installed a program on the laptop that allowed him to access it remotely. He had never used it all that much but now realized it could be a "digital bloodhound." He began logging in to his laptop from afar, which could theoretically give him, and police, the IP address of the thief.

After weeks of stalking the burglar—deleting his newly downloaded music, messing with photos, etc.—Alston took the daring step of turning on the webcam. He patiently watched the thief’s room and then, when no one was watching, installed anti-theft programs like LoJack. Police soon retrieved the computer. “Truth be told, it was a little anticlimactic,” says Alston. “Having the laptop back wasn’t as much fun as trying to get the laptop back.”