Lost+Found: Case 3D9J – Edmonton, Canada

Lost+Found: Case 3D9J – Edmonton, Canada

recovered laptop with Prey in Canada

  • Location: Edmonton, Canada
  • Date Stolen: July 10, 2012
  • Date Recovered: July 13, 2012
  • Theft: Work office burglarized
  • Missing items: Macbook + charger
  • Police reaction: Not likely to recover it
  • Time it took for first report to arrive: <15 min
  • Once received, time it took for police to recover it: Immediately
  • Final thoughts: GET PREY NOW!

Full story below:

I left my computer tied to my office desk, on Monday, July 10, at about 1900h. Came back the next morning (Tuesday) at about 1000h to observe it was missing. The lock that I used gave way to some brute force, one of the teeth actually broke off allowing the thief to yank it out of the computer.

The theft was reported to the my workplace security and to the Edmonton Police Service. Agents came, heard the story and left their contact info. Before I even filled the police report, I remembered had a program installed that let me log in remotely to any of my computers and control it (i.e. to access data from my work computer at home and vice-versa). Each time I used any of my computers on the internet it made itself available online, therefore sending an IP address to the program’s server. However, I didn’t want to log in and actually control the computer because whoever was using it would see that I was doing it, prompting them to turn it off or format the computer, and that would do me no good.

So I proceeded to quietly log the IPs provided by the computer and send them to the EPS Constable responsible for the investigation. On Wednesday night he told me that he would work on a subpoena to make the Internet Service Provider give the names / addresses of the users associated with the two different IPs that I had logged. But that
could take time – up to 30 or 60 days – he said. I felt really disappointed. What good did it do to be able to see the IPs if they would take that long to do something about it? I totally lost hope in recovering my computer again.

Then on Friday I received an email – an advertisement – from Prey. I knew about it because I had read lots about it the day before, when thinking of ways to track my stolen computer. When I saw the email, I first though “Great, now that it’s been stolen you send me your ad…Next time, do it a week earlier, please”. Then I went to work, my mind racing, thinking of possibilities.

Then it came to me. How did Prey know my email, to send me ads? I decided to check the website, typed in my email and the “forgot password” link. I received an email, created a new password and logged in. Looked at my device list, there was my laptop!! I had installed Prey about one year ago. I clicked on it, activated the program and started receiving information about my computer in less than 15 minutes (lucky me, my computer was online!). The first 3 reports were
not really very informative – I didn’t really trust the geolocation, the pictures were all black, the screenshots showed only a wallpaper. Then at 1330h Friday July 13 I received a good picture…

I sent the picture to the EPS Constable and he called me a few minutes later saying that he recognized the man in the picture (another stroke of luck). He said the man had prior arrests and an extensive record. Later that day I learned that he was out on some sort of conditional release. The EPS Constable was on his day off but told me he would talk to some people and get things moving. As requested, I changed the report interval to 15 minutes and started forwarding the info to the police in real-time… I was excited, they had two known addresses for the man and the computer’s geolocation was showing one of them – now I believed it.

Later that afternoon I received a call from a police detective. He had been contacted by the constable and was working on my case now. After obtaining 57 pictures of this guy using my computer for a number of things – from downloading torrents to facebooking to watching porn and youtube – the detective was only waiting for the best opportunity. He knew the man had to go home by 2300h – one of the conditions of his previous release. Producing a warrant would also take time (I don’t understand, on CSI everything is SO much faster!). Then finally at around 2100h he left the house and was arrested on the street.

He was charged with possession of stolen merchandise, and also had some amount of drugs. He was also charged with breaking one of the conditions of his release – not using a computer at all. He said he had purchased my computer earlier that day from another man, for $300 (I call BS – my Macbook is worth more than that!). The police is now investigating to determine how my computer went from my desk to his hands.

By 2300h I had my computer back with me, less than 12h after activating Prey. My suggestion: install this program on your devices, NOW (laptops, iPhones, iPads, Androids). It’s free and won’t bug you the least until you need to activate it. Then you can choose to pay $50 and store up to 100 reports or use it for free and store up to 10
reports, after activating the program.