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GadgetTrak Uses Viral Stealth to Protect Laptops

by R.E.Curtice

Laptops among other electronics are stolen more often than any other device. According to the FBI the number of reported laptop thefts increased almost 48 percent over the last two years. About one in ten laptops will be stolen is what the police have found, and recently the consulting firm of Ernst & Young recently had it happened to them. With laptops now accounting for around 40% of all computer sales, theft of these expensive devices is now escalating at an alarming rate. But there is a firm working to turn that around. GadgetTrak is such a firm. They have software that not only tracks the stolen laptop but takes a photo of thief! All of this is monitored through GadgetTrak's data center which is in a highly secured tier 4 facility, including on-site armed security around-the-clock.

Strangely in many aspects GadgetTrak software resembles a viral bot except it doesn't replicate itself. Wikipedia defines bots as software applications that run automated tasks over the Internet. They perform tasks that are both simple and structurally repetitive, at a much higher rate than would be possible for a human alone. But like virus GadgetTrak software is not detected by the user of the laptop, even when it is stolen, and it is not listed in the Processes running in the Task Manager. Inside Report spoke with Ian Schray of GadgetTrak at a recent Macworld Conference on the ins and outs of GadgetTrack.

Introduce us to GadgetTrak.

Gadget Track is software you install on your laptop, your mobile phone, Blackberry, or iPad and if the item is ever stolen or lost you are able to log in on another computer and activate tracking. The computer or phone will report back its location periodically using WiFi positioning. That means these WiFi stations everywhere are cataloging position based on signal strength. In the case of a mobile phone, android, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry or whatever, it will use whatever location services are available. This means WiFi, CPS or cell towers. The great thing about using all of those is that if you think about GPS means you can tell where it is exactly but you can't tell what floor it is on in a high rise. WiFi would give you that extra dimension. In addition in the case of a laptop, it will use the camera to take a photo of the thief and email it back to you which is instrumental in helping police get your device back.

How long did this take to develop?

Let's see, we've been in business a little over three years, the actual development time, with the server back end and so forth, we were constantly doing it. Every time you want a new feature it takes time. We were constantly working on it. We've been to market the whole time. Police just love it. They get a photo of the thief, they get a location and so they just walk in knock on the door and say, "That's you in the picture; get on the ground."

Do you have some stories about your successes?

We have plenty. We're actually working on one now, and it looks like it is going to be one of those big rings. It's about someone who stole a laptop and took it a few states over and tried to sell it one Craig's List. But the owner still found out and got the location. He called the police in that city and they took care of it.

We have successfully recovered yet another stolen laptop in our hometown of Portland, Oregon. The laptop was stolen from a residence on New Year's Eve during a burglary in SE Portland. The owner had installed GadgetTrak on the device and activated tracking, shortly thereafter the software sent a photo of the person in possession of the stolen device, as well as location and network information that helped lead to the recovery and return to its rightful owner.

We have had a number of successful recoveries in our home state and working with the Portland Police has been a critical factor to our success, the responsiveness and increasing knowledge of our software has played a huge factor in these successful recoveries. Thanks to our software and great detective work by the Portland Police we have not only recovered devices for our customers, but also unveiled a whole slew of other crimes, from larger theft rings, identify theft and drugs. The feedback we have received from law enforcement and our customers in these recoveries has also played a significant role in the development of more advanced solutions to recover devices and protect data.

One reason that the bad guys get caught is because they don't want to mess too much with the laptop. They want to make sure the machine works. When they know it works they just want to sell it for pennies on the dollar, right? They don't to really deal with it. They just say, " Hey it works on the internet, let's sell it." And it is usually Craig's List. A good general rule for everyone is not to buy anything that you think is or might be stolen.

This sounds like an excellent product. What is your background because we like to find how people's experience motivate startups?

I've been in the industry now for about twelve years now, working for several different companies doing marketing and business development. I've been in the Mac industries for about twelve years and I love it. Now I'm taking it to the next level here at Macworld Expo with GadgetTrak. ||