Sacramento police are on the hunt for a thief who was shopped by the computer he was trying to steal.
The fellow below turned a stolen Apple Mac on and his photo was instantly taken when he connected with the internet. The laptop was stolen from Hiram Johnson High School. The Sacramento Police Department posted the photograph of a possible thief today on every local TV news show.
We asked the school’s site technology leader, Joe Stymeist, how this all worked. Stymeist said that their 625 laptop computers have Undercover installed. On the 120 newer ones the application activates the Apple laptop's built-in Isight camera. Undercover then uses the Isight camera to register the proper users.
When a laptop is stolen, the user or school notifies Orbicule. Then, the facial recognition software part of Undercover takes over for those with Isight cameras. When the Mac is online, Undercover routinely checks whether the Mac it is running on has been reported as stolen. Bingo, you’re automatically photographed and noted as a thief in the Orbicule database. Unlike any other theft recovery software on the market, Undercover will not send any identifying information from your Mac to their server if your Mac has not been stolen. This makes the entire concept more secure and respects your privacy.
Stymeist explained that in January someone stole one of the older Mac laptops. This model doesn't have a built-in camera. So Undercover knows the laptop is stolen and it begins to record keystrokes and captures screens. The person who stole that older model started using Myspace and eventually they left enough information for police to go out and pick up the computer. The case is pending at the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office.
Hiram Johnson High School is not the only California school using Undercover. In March, the Modesto Police recovered a stolen computer containing vital personal information, including social security numbers, that belonged to the public school system’s 3,500 employees. Detectives used tracking software on the computer to apprehend a suspect who had a long criminal record. The police said he had stolen the computer from a data processing firm, perhaps with the intention of committing identity theft.
In May, Kait Duplaga, an Apple employee in Westchester, New York, had her laptop stolen. She used her knowledge of Apple's Leopard operating system and the laptop's built-in Isight camera to photograph the thieves. The software that Duplaga used to take a picture of the thief, called PhotoBooth, is standard on all newer Apple laptop models. Duplaga combined it with a $99 per year service called Back to My Mac. The result was a pair of thieves who are now spending time in jail.
According to the FBI, losses due to laptop theft totalled more than $6.7 million dollars in 2005. A recent FBI report said that 97 per cent of all stolen computers are never recovered. Joe Stymeist said they have had six laptops stolen from Hiram Johnson High School and that three of them are back on campus. Stymeist said it is all because of having Undercover installed. Undercover costs $49, with special pricing for school districts. Either way it is an inexpensive way to protect a valuable resource for a user and especially for cash strapped school districts. X