Sunday, May 11, 2008

An Open Letter To Bill Gates And Steve Ballmer

I understand you and your employees believe that you're working on cool stuff. Which you are. But any company that is focused on maintaining a monopoly, as yours is, has great difficulty actually conceiving anything genuinely cool and/or interesting.

Which brings us to this story about a recovered laptop.

More specifically, how the stolen laptop aided in its recovery and, more importantly, finding the thieves.

Which brings us to the question for Bill, Steve and you:

You think this can be done with a Windows laptop??

My hometown paper:
A tech-savvy White Plains woman whose apartment was burglarized solved the crime herself after she was able to log on to her stolen laptop, photograph one of the suspects with it and get photos of another, police said.

Edmon Shahikian, 23, of 13 Cobbling Rock Road, Katonah, and Ian Frias, 20, of 1609 E. 174th St., the Bronx, were picked up at their homes Wednesday night after the victim turned the pictures over to police. The police said they recovered most of the $5,000 worth of electronics stolen in the burglary.

"Our victim did a phenomenal job," said Lt. Eric Fischer, commander of the Detective Division. "She knew her computer, and she let us know as soon as she obtained the information. We rolled on it immediately, and the result is the arrest of two burglary suspects and the recovery of most of the stolen property."

The burglary was reported April 27, when three roommates returned to their Ridgeview Avenue apartment about 10 p.m. to discover that it had been ransacked.

Among the items taken were two laptops, two flat-screen televisions, two iPods, gaming consoles, DVDs and computer games. Police found no sign of force.

On Tuesday, police said, one of the victims, who works at The Apple Store in The Westchester mall, received a call from a friend asking her if she was online.

The victim said no, and was told by the friend that his computer showed her as being logged onto the Internet.

At that point, police said, the victim signed onto another computer and used the "Back to My Mac" program to determine that her stolen MacIntosh laptop indeed was signed onto the Web and that someone was using it to shop online. She then activated the stolen computer's camera, allowing her to "see" what was in front of the laptop.

At first, police said, she saw only an empty chair. But a short time later, they said, she was able to photograph a man, Shahikian, sitting in front of her stolen laptop. The victim then was able to find photos of Frias using the computer after it had been stolen, police said.

Fischer said the victim did not know either man but showed the photos to one of her roommates, who recognized them as having attended a get-together at the apartment a few weeks before the burglary.

Police said Shahikian and Frias apparently are friends of a friend of the victims.

The computer-savvy victim contacted police, gave them the tell-tale photos, and the arrests were made a short time later.

Shahikian and Frias are charged with second-degree burglary and fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, both felonies.

Bail and court information were unavailable.

Frias and Shahikian were arrested last year on charges of criminal possession of marijuana, a felony, after police recovered 3 pounds of marijuana worth about $7,500 in a Jeep they were in. The dispositions of their cases were not immediately available.
A clever Mac user who had her laptop stolen led the police to the alleged burglars using Back to My Mac. Three roommates in White Plains, N.Y., had about $5,000 worth of computer and entertainment equipment stolen 27-Apr-08. Then this last Tuesday, one victim who works at an Apple Store, Kait Duplaga, received a text message from a friend, who, spotting her on iChat, thought she'd recovered her computer.

She said no, and used Back to My Mac's remote screen sharing feature to monitor her laptop's built-in iSight camera to grab a photo of one of the alleged thieves. She then used remote file sharing to find pictures of the other stored on the laptop. The two men charged in the burglary were arrested with the equipment in their apartment, and are reportedly friends of a friend of the roommates who had their stuff stolen.

Fortunately for Duplaga, the alleged malefactors had a router with UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) or NAT-PMP (Network Address Translation-Port Mapping Protocol) turned on, without which Back to My Mac rarely works. And they left the victim's laptop signed into .Mac.

I'm finishing up a book on Back to My Mac, and one thing I've discovered is that the service can both be hard to get up and running and hard to eliminate from your system. (I address both in the book.)

While I've heard of people using tools like iAlertU to capture images of someone in the processing of using your computer without permission, this is the first remote sleuthing I've heard of with Back to My Mac.

A commenter on this story at BoingBoing wondered if the Back to My Mac access goes both ways - and that's a supremely valid and freaky concern. Back to My Mac assumes that you control the .Mac account in question and any computers on which you've logged into .Mac. The alleged thieves could just have easily have monitored Duplaga, had she logged in to .Mac and enabled Back to My Mac on another Mac, just as she monitored them.

1 comment:

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