23 February 2006

The amazing success story

It has taken a bit longer than anticipated, but I'm finally posting the full story on the London theft. The reason for the delay is that I waited for the 'crime scene' pictures to arrive. Since they still haven't arrived yet, I decided to go ahead and just post the story for your reading pleasure. Additionally, I did not want to interfere with the investigation, or even ruin it by posting the story on our weblog.

I won't keep you waiting any longer. Below is the original theft story as sent to me by Amit Tida, victim of the theft, whose Powerbook had been stolen on February 6th. As you will read, Undercover plays a pivotal role in the recovery of the stolen PB, but in a slightly different way than you would think. Here is the unedited story:

Hi, my name is Amit Tida, I'm a student at SAE institute in London where I'm studying Digital filmmaking and special effects. On 6th on feb, after returning home from shopping, I found that home had been burgled, finding that my powerbook along with other personal possession, had been stolen. After going through the normal procedure with the police and all that, I e-mailed orbicule, with my ID and telling them what happened, so they could black list my powerbook. Within 1 hour or less, I was contacted by Orbicule and they told me that they have started the search and also gave some useful advice. Upset that I was I wanted to carry on with my life, and having uni the next day, I carried on as usual.

During the day I got a call from my mum saying that Orbicule had contacted my home to get more details on the case, so they could contact my local authorities, so I then decided to go home. After reaching home, I decided to go to the back of my house to look for any clues or anything the thieves might have dropped or left. Upon reaching the back gate, I saw my powerbook and seeing it I was so happy, but at the same time a bit confused, (as the night before, when the robbery took place, the police had searched up and down my garden and back gate and found nothing).

Almost at the same time, the investigation team arrived. After taking the powerbook inside my house, and after they searched for finger prints, and all that, they basically turned on the powerbook and searched through it, as they felt that the thieves might have used it, and they came to the conclusion that someone had actually used the powerbook, as they where able to, some how checked some sort of log which said what time the last login was, and said that someone had login in after 4.3 hours after the burglary had been reported. They also came to the conclusion the thief had come back to house near early morning and placed the powerbook at the back of the garden next to the broken gate (where they had supposedly escaped) in fear that they would get caught. As I had stuck a sticker which I made inside my power saying "ORBICULE PROTECTED.... SO DROP IT", when I first got Undercover installed.

That's my story; I'm just so happy as I now have my powerbook and all my work back and able now to give in my coursework on time. If you want to ask me more questions e-mail me at thedirector.akt@gmail.com

I think you'll agree that this is an amazing story. The thieves came back to return the stolen Powerbook because they found the "Orbicule protected" label on the Powerbook. FYI: this label was made by Amit himself, he's an art/creative/filmmaking student after all. The thieves were scared that this Powerbook would lead the police to their home.

While I don't think it would be a good idea to label all Undercover-enabled Macs -- because Undercover relies on the fact that it is a hidden application -- this story does show that theft can be reduced or prevented just by installing Undercover. This could be especially true in schools and corporations where the students/employees know that their Mac is protected.

The most important thing, however, is that I'm very glad Amit got his Powerbook back and that he could submit his assignment on time!


David Visser said...

Sounds quite funny honestly ;-) Wondering why they returned it..

Anyway, I've bought undercover today, wondering how it's gonna work :-)

Anonymous said...

Today thousands of users are creating "Orbicule Protected" stickers with their printer. :/

I will be buying your software very soon. Last night I dreamt my PB was stolen and decided to stop putting it off.

Patrick Haney said...

Glad to hear the first success story Peter. When I first heard about Undercover a few weeks back, I was excited. I talked to you over AIM, though I'm sure you were bombarded with messages, so you probably don't remember. I said as soon as I had my MacBook, I was buying a copy.

And, in fact, the second piece of software I purchased and installed once I had my MacBook last night was indeed Undercover (I had to get Delicious Library first, it's just such an awesome application). I was even more pleased to see that version 1.5 had been released and that my built-in iSight would come in handy if my precious laptop were stolen.

Well, I hope you never have to hear about my MacBook being stolen, but if it was, at least I'll have a little peace knowing I've got a damn good solution to recovering it. Thanks!

Matthew said...

That's a great story, and poses an interesting question: Is it a good idea to have a label/sticker on the Mac that says that it's protected and that the IP and iSight photos are transmitted to company, Orbicule, designed to track stolen Macs.

My take: it's a toss up, but interesting nonetheless and I'd be sorely tempted to put that label on my Macs as a deterrent. What's the downside?

Bruce said...

I don't think putting a sticker saying orbicule protected is a good idea, because instead of taking the risk and returning the laptop the thief can just throw it away into any trash can in the city.
I've orbicule installed myself, but NO STICKERS :))

It is a great program. Great job Peter.

Noam Eppel said...

"Almost at the same time, the investigation team arrived. After taking the powerbook inside my house, and after they searched for finger prints, and all that, they basically turned on the powerbook and searched through it..."

This is not the recommended procedure. Once you access a computer you risk losing valuable data such as timestamps, etc.

Never perform incident responce on a live system. Instead take a bit-for-bit image capture of the harddrive using a product like Forensic SF-5000


Noam Eppel

Anonymous said...

It is great that this powerbook was recovered, but the story does not say whether Orbicule really had anything to do with it. Did Orbicule receive any information from the powerbook itself? It was returned because a sticker was found and scared the thief. Did the thief use it on the internet and was an email generated and sent to Orbicule? That is what would show that the security system itself worked. I am sure the owner is glad it was recovered regardless of how.

Galley said...

Most likely the thief looked up Orbicule and when he saw what it was, said "Oh, crap", and decided to return the laptop.

Anonymous said...

i love the recovery story and decided to buy a multi-licensed copy for my small company because we have devices in a shop exhibition... hope it will never be used! torsten/berlin

Anonymous said...

To me the question of whether or not to use a warning sticker is simply answered: Don't.
Imagine that you are in a situation like Amit's and your Mac gets stolen along with other items. If you leave Orbicule to do its work, chances are that you may recover those other items because it helps capture the thief.