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A Leash on Your Laptop

New tracking software monitors your missing laptop's whereabouts.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the December 2008 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Sure, your laptop has passwords, encrypted logins and biometric fingerprint readers. But what happens when the entire laptop is swiped? Say goodbye to the $1,000-plus asset and everything on it: confidential company and client information as well as any personal files, music, photos and more. According to a June study conducted for Dell by the Ponemon Institute, business travelers lose more than 12,000 laptops per week in U.S. airports. While some end up in the lost and found, others are victim to computer-napping.

Absolute Software and Brigadoon Security Group have long been leaders of the laptop-tracking pack. But in July, a new offering emerged: Adeona. Developed by University of California Ph.D. students Gabriel Maganis and Thomas Ristenpart with University of Washington faculty Tadayoshi Kohno and Arvind Krishnamurthy, the software is open source and, get this, free. Like existing offerings, Adeona monitors a laptop's location by gathering various IP address and routing data when it's connected to the internet. But instead of residing in the possession of a third party, Adeona sends location updates to an OpenDHT storage space--and only the laptop owner can view its whereabouts. The Mac version also snaps a photo of the perpetrator with its iSight camera.

Because OpenDHT is a free, online storage service and Adeona's creators don't have to maintain a proprietary service, they're able to offer the software for free. And by releasing it open source, says Maganis, "we hope other developers extend and evolve Adeona in ways we didn't even think of."

Though Adeona may be the frontrunner in the areas of security and price, it falls behind its predecessors in features, support and tamper-resistance. Absolute's Computrace LoJack Premium Edition, which starts at $59.99 per license, per year ($39.99 for the Standard Edition), includes the option to remotely delete sensitive data and a $1,000 service guarantee. Both LoJack and Brigadoon's PhoneHome ($29.95) have live agents who work with global ISPs and law enforcement to recover lost computers. In addition, tech-savvy thieves cannot uninstall the programs.

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