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Researchers at U Washington and UCSD Test New, Free Laptop Tracking System

A new and free open source system from researchers at the University of Washington and the University of California, San Diego promises to track down the location of a lost or stolen laptop without requiring the use of a proprietary or central service. Users install a client utility, called Adeona (after the Roman goddess who guides kids home safely). The client continually monitors the current location of the laptop via IP addresses and nearby routers and access points. Location data and associated text is encrypted, keeping it anonymous and unlinkable, while still accessible by the machine's rightful owner or an agent of that person.

The website for the service explains that commercial tracking systems "sacrifice location privacy," since, in those instances, the tracking system--a third party--itself is keeping tabs on the computer and its owner. Also, outsiders can "piggy-back" on the tracking system's Internet traffic to establish device location.

The software, which is in beta, is available for Mac OS X, Windows (XP and Vista), and Linux. The Mac OS X version of Adeona also includes an option for taking a picture of the laptop user or thief using the iSight camera built into the machine in tandem with isightcapture. The images are also privacy protected.

When a computer is lost, the user installs a recovery tool on an alternative system, specifies the period in which to look for updates on location, and enters a password, which had been established during the original installation. The researchers who developed the software recommend that any data related to a potential recovery be passed along to law enforcement agents.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .

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