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Best Way To Get Back a Stolen Computer?

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the aiding-lawn-forcement dept.

Social Networks 482

davidphogan74 writes "I have some stolen computers checking in with a server we have (software pre-loaded), and I have full access to the systems. What's the best way to deal with this situation? The local police (to the theft) have been contacted several times and seem to be clueless. I personally have no financial interest in these computers, I just don't like atom-thieves. What's the best way to handle knowing the IPs, email addresses, MySpace sites, the Google login, etc. when working with law enforcement? The officer I spoke with (who genuinely seemed to care) didn't know an IP address from a mailing address, so I called others. Nobody cared. Anyone have any ideas?"

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You need to go beyond the law. (5, Funny)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058491)

You need Snake Plissken.

Re:You need to go beyond the law. (5, Funny)

kidyomo (543473) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058801)

Snake Plissken? I heard he was dead.

Change the background pic (5, Funny)

Timo_UK (762705) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058501)

to Goatse?

First idea (3, Funny)

mrroot (543673) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058507)

First, I would check the airport [slashdot.org] .

You need to use the police to get the ISP's info (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24058509)

The ISP can tell you who is at an IP address, and from that, you can find your computers.

Re:You need to use the police to get the ISP's inf (4, Interesting)

spyrochaete (707033) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058543)

That's a sound idea. It might be a good bit of preventive maintenance to use a dynamic DNS client like No-IP to map the computer's current IP, whatever it may be, to a unique domain name. If your PC goes missing just ping the domain and if it's plugged in you're that much closer to finding it.

Re:You need to use the police to get the ISP's inf (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24058565)

confidential data such as that can only be obtained with a court order ... unless you're sneaky and can somehow convince tech support or a CSR to give you the information.

Re:You need to use the police to get the ISP's inf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24058597)

The ISP isn't going to give you the addresses just like that... You'll need the police, with a warrant, but since they are clueless...

Set it to download kiddie porn... (5, Funny)

ClarisseMcClellan (1286192) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058647)

If the police will not help you then set it to up/download dubious content. They will be round like a shot. You might get nicked visiting a FBI kiddie-porn honey trap during your research for this though...
Maybe try the RIAA. Claim that it has downloaded an Amy Winehouse track or something like that.

Re:Set it to download kiddie porn... (3, Funny)

PIBM (588930) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058737)

Well he has full access so he can do the search from the notebook and get perfect results :)

Re:You need to use the police to get the ISP's inf (2, Interesting)

joe 155 (937621) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058699)

I really would second that. But you should ring up and (whilst trying to, as much as possible, avoid being condescending) talk the nice guy at the police through what he will have to do stage by stage to get the people who've robbed you.

Basically saying "I have this data which can be varified in these ways, which will give you reasonable suspicion that these people are thieves. If you ring up the number and say you are with the police they will give you their physical address, which you can then make a quick warrant application for permission to go in, and then you have the criminals"... of course, as someone else mentioned, if you can get the FBI involved it would be better for you - probably.

Re:You need to use the police to get the ISP's inf (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24058711)

If you have monitoring software on the computer, just wait until they do some sort of financial transaction using the company machine.

Then just use the info to order a few dozen more PC's at their expense, and send them an email saying you won't tell if they won't.

Re:You need to use the police to get the ISP's inf (5, Informative)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058841)

You should certainly be investigating this as an employer. It is very likely the computers were stolen by employees you would like to stop employing before they steal more from you.

What you need to do here is to contact a specialist computer crimes department. This will not be a new situation to them and they will recognize the fact that there is a very high probability of an arrest and recovery of the stolen goods.

The first thing to do would be to find out if the computers were officially reported stolen. If so you need to report the development to the police force where the theft was reported. Otherwise make out a report.

Once a report is made it counts on their local statistics and the police have to take it seriously - we are talking about several thousand dollars here.

There may not be a computer crimes dept on your local force but they should certainly have access to those resources. Find out which force is responsible for investigating kiddie porn - those guys would usually pretty much prefer to be doing anything else for a change, after a short while its like shooting fish in a barrel.

You can certainly help by collecting as much information as possible. For example, log the IP addresses that the machines are using. Then use reverse DNS lookup to find the ISP.

If you still can't get anywhere, contact me at hallam@dotfuturemanifesto.com and I can pass the issue on to folk I know. They may not be able to help you direct but they will know someone who can.

The reason that so much time and effort is poured into investigating kiddie porn rather than bank fraud is not simply the nature of the crime. Its the fact that they have a defined process that delivers highly predictable results. If we could design a process for delivering collars in phishing fraud we would have no difficulty making it a higher police priority.

It seems to me that this is an area where we can easily set up a predictable recovery process that delivers collars.

Re:You need to use the police to get the ISP's inf (5, Insightful)

ZeroFactorial (1025676) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058927)

One other idea would be to make a bogus MySpace account with a picture of a hot chick/dude (depending on the thief's gender) that lives somewhere in the same area as the thief.

Then befriend the thief over a couple weeks and get all the personal info you can (phone #, maybe even address, etc..)

Then just call the cops with a physical address and tell them the person committed grand theft [wikipedia.org] of company property, and that you suspect they have the stolen property at their residence.

Grand Theft is committed when the money, labor, real or personal property stolen is valued at more than $400.

Re:You need to use the police to get the ISP's inf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24058965)

Once a report is made it counts on their local statistics and the police have to take it seriously - we are talking about several thousand dollars here

A stolen computer is way low on their priority list. The only real reason to file a police report is for insurance and to cover any liability down the road (i.e. No, we did not commit that computer crime. See from our police report; our computers were stolen.)

Re:You need to use the police to get the ISP's inf (-1, Redundant)

ZeroFactorial (1025676) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058865)

If you have monitoring software on the computer, just wait until they do some sort of financial transaction using the company machine.

Then just use the info to order a few dozen more PC's at their expense, and send them an email saying you won't tell if they won't.

Re:You need to use the police to get the ISP's inf (1)

BazilBBrush (1259370) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058921)

Dilbert? Is that the other you???

Obvious Solution (2, Funny)

Elliot_Lin (972399) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058511)

If they don't matter just give them up perhaps? Or make a loop to toggle the CD tray repeatedly - just to annoy the hell out of em - trigger the internal speaker too. If they don't matter you'd be better off having some fun irritating the thieves than putting in the effort of tracking em down.

Re:Obvious Solution (3, Funny)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058587)

Play them country music 24/7/365 - or maybe that is too cruel, even for a thief...

Re:Obvious Solution (5, Interesting)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058889)

You then run the risk of alerting the thieves that the systems are remotely accessible. This might prompt them to re-format and re-install which loses you the ability of remote access.

If it was me, I'd be installing keystroke loggers and seeing what kinds of information I can capture. Credit cards, phone numbers, email addresses, etc. can give you the ability to inflict deeper wounds than than the cd tray can cause.

Now, I'm not suggesting that you commit credit card fraud with captured numbers, but you could submit those credit card numbers to a newsgroup on the net read by people that would be more than happy to commit the fraud for you.

Heh, steal a computer and destroy your credit rating. All of their friends in the address book get spammed to death, their email accounts are suspended for spam. Capture a phone number, submit it to companies that will try to sell them crap during dinner. You get the idea.

Why annoy, when you can inflict real and lasting damage.

Re:Obvious Solution (5, Insightful)

Sancho (17056) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058949)

These are thieves. They're likely already using stolen credit card/identities. Taking that data and posting it publicly would probably just harm an innocent person.

Treat it as an Open Source problem (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24058517)

Become a cop and solve it yourself.

Track what you have? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24058521)

Run a whois on the IPs, and try to look for personal information related to the email addresses? It seems like you're on your own until you find the actual identities of the thieves, since the police isn't willing or capable of helping.

Across State lines? (2, Informative)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058527)

Then call the FBI, they do have some experience in this sort of thing.

Re:Across State lines? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24058655)

Or make the computers send a death threat to each member of the congress and executive office (including the candidates) then the FBI moves in, and at the impounded auction you can buy it back for pennies on the dollar.

Re:Across State lines? (5, Funny)

JoeMirando (594743) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058797)

Or make the computers send a death threat to each member of the congress and executive office (including the candidates)...

I've got to admit that this appeals to me. Just don't sign it "Osama" or mention WMDs... It seems there are some things they're just not interested in finding. [g]

Re:Across State lines? (4, Informative)

dhasenan (758719) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058733)

The FBI won't intervene for less than $5000 worth of stolen goods, generally.

Work for the NSA and get a computer with top secret (but not especially sensitive) data on it. When that gets stolen, you'll have a black ops team using the thieves' home as a training facility for an evening. That happened to my friend, once. (He had an NSA-style briefcase with builtin microphone, cell phone, radio transmitter, and GPS unit that was stolen. He himself did not steal such an item.)

Re:Across State lines? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058855)

He said 'some', it might be enough to qualify depending on the quantity and model.

Couple of high-end powerbooks could hit the 5 grand mark.

Re:Across State lines? (1)

bobbagum (556152) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058779)

Or just upload kiddie porn/terrorist training manuals...

Re:Across State lines? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058843)

Terrorist training manuals are still legal, so far.

Go to a lawyer (4, Insightful)

neapolitan (1100101) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058539)

Speak with a lawyer that has knowledge and interest in this situation. The fact that a successful prosecution may bring a lot of publicity to the guy may be enough to help him work for free, or the company that is losing the computers may post his retainer.

What is your relation to all of this? As with any civil case, the police are not going to be a driving force to pursue the theft; your company or the people that lost it should be making sure things get done.

I wouldn't expect police to know anything about IP, MAC addresses, login tracing, etc., but a lawyer would. Then, what a lawyer can do is go to a judge saying, "We have solid evidence that person at IP x.x.x.x which is Verizon ISP registered to address ___ main street., also cross confirming with name at myspace profile _____, is using stolen property."

A warrant will then be issued, and the police can go to the house and retrieve the laptop, and interview the guy, who will doubtlessly say "I bought it from _____ on the street, I thought it was legit." You will surely get your computer back, and if you find a motherlode of computers, he will surely go to jail.

Re:Go to a lawyer (1)

simpl3x (238301) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058687)

Call a law school in your area...

Re:Go to a lawyer (5, Informative)

catmistake (814204) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058829)

As with any civil case, the police are not going to be a driving force to pursue a theft

FYI Theft is criminal, not civil, how serious depends on the dollar amount. Most thefts under $1000 are misdemeanors, over that is felony theft and these crimes are certainly under the pervue of your local and state police (unless its interstate, in which cases the FBI has jurisdiction).

Re:Go to a lawyer (3, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058961)

Mod parent up. What is the point of paying taxes to fund law enforcement if anybody who is the victim of a crime has to mount their own investigation and civil prosecution. Maybe if cops spent less time enforcing laws that 95% of people disagree with (copyright enforcement, speed traps, etc) they'd have time to actually solve crimes that people thing ought to be solved...

Re:Go to a lawyer (1)

IAAE (1302511) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058939)

In Canada, theft is considered a criminal offense, which means that this would be a criminal case and not a civil one. In this case I think that it would be the police's job to go to a judge to get the warrant etc. However, if you started contacting the thief/thieves directly asking for the computers back, I think you risk getting into a verbal contract of somesort and turning it into a civil case. You do NOT want to get tied up in a civil case.

Re:Go to a lawyer (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058959)

Um... the only lawyers who prosecute theft cases are the ones working for the government.

If you don't care about getting them back... (2, Interesting)

dr_strang (32799) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058547)

Disable volume control, load up a wav that screams "I'm stolen" in a loop, then after a couple of minutes trigger a program that reformats the hard drive and puts a garbled GRUB loader in the boot sector.

Essentially, brick it after letting the thieves know you know they stole it.

Re:If you don't care about getting them back... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24058879)

Then they'll just install a new OS. If they have webcams, you could try turning them on and taking pictures of the thieves, then turning those over to police.

Re:If you don't care about getting them back... (4, Informative)

Kamineko (851857) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058915)

That's not bricking. That's nowhere near bricking.

Re:If you don't care about getting them back... (1)

robogun (466062) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058963)

If it can be done remotely, better to wipe the BIOS or change the password on the security chip

The same we you resolve all problems on a computer (4, Funny)

numbski (515011) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058551)

First you go get a gun, then you run around shooting complete strangers (don't worry - they'll respawn eventually), and make your way toward any glowing switches you happen to find. For no apparent reason, this will advance you toward your goal of getting your computer back.

OH! Don't forget to find a good spot to spawn camp to get your frag numbers up! I hear the nursery ward at the hospital tends to be a good camping spot...

Use a phone analogy? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24058553)

Try explaining it to a cop as being like a stolen phone? You have the equivalent of its phone number and need police to ask the phone company to look up the location of the stolen property?

Re:Use a phone analogy? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058669)

Maybe that's not the best analogy, but certainly trying to explain it in terms they'd understand is a good idea.

This is Slashdot. (4, Funny)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058891)

Phone analogy? This is Slashdot. It's car analogy or GTFO.

I know you're trying to impress us but... (-1, Flamebait)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058557)

... perhaps you'd have been better off buying some better locks in the first place?

Who needs "high tech detection" with some good old "low tech prevention"?

Find out where the gear is physically (4, Insightful)

mbone (558574) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058563)

My advice is to find out where the gear is physically, then call the sympathetic cop back.

If you cannot find that out, you cannot expect them to. I would take the IP address and contact the ISP that serves it. If they won't help you, get the cop to do it.

An obvious question is, do these computers have built in cameras that can be turned on remotely ? That might produce useful info.

You might also be able to read the thieves' email. If you do that long enough, I bet you will get their names and addresses.

Re:Find out where the gear is physically (1)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058671)

Say what?

My advice is to find out where the gear is physically, then call the sympathetic cop back. If you cannot find that out, you cannot expect them to. I would take the IP address and contact the ISP that serves it. If they won't help you, get the cop to do it.

You're telling him to not bother the police before you have an address, and then you say that you should ask the cops to help you get the address.

Finding the physical location (1)

sphealey (2855) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058925)

> You're telling him to not bother the police before
> you have an address, and then you say that you should
> ask the cops to help you get the address.

The IP address is only going to be a very rough guide to the physical location. To get the exact location the ISP will almost certainly ask for a subpoena, which you won't have unless you file a civil suit with the attendant costs or the police are involved with a criminal investigation.

sPh

Depends on where you are... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24058845)

...if you can do that. If you're in the state of Texas, then you might want to make sure you have a P.I. license first.

file a police report? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24058567)

Have you tried filing a police report to report the laptops as stolen? At that point they are required to investigate. Then hand over your information about the whereabouts of the laptops.

Escalate the Issue to the FBI (5, Insightful)

celest (100606) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058569)

You may want to escalate the matter to a different law enforcement agency, such as the FBI. They should be more responsive to this sort of thing, especially if you describe it as data theft, rather than property theft, as surely your company's computers that were stolen were loaded with company data.

If you live in a small county with elected/appointed law enforcement agents, perhaps you should raise this issue the next time they're up for re-election. If you live in a larger city, perhaps you should contact your city councilor about the issue and request that your city's police force be modernized for the 21st century.

You should avoid doing anything yourself, as you can land yourself in legal trouble. If you insist on doing something yourself, get legal advice first to ensure you aren't going to cause more trouble for yourself in the process.

Re:Escalate the Issue to the FBI (1)

tonyray (215820) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058875)

Breaking into someone's network is a Federal crime, so the FBI is probably the correct place to go. After all, isn't stealing a computer the ultimate network break-in?

Re:Escalate the Issue to the FBI (4, Informative)

Jack9 (11421) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058955)

Many ppl mistakenly assume the FBI deals with computer fraud, electronic credit card theft, etc. It is actually under the Secret Service who have VERY good people working for them. //have had to call them

Take a picture (2, Insightful)

Acapulco (1289274) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058573)

If the computer has a conencted webcam, try to take pictures. There was a /. story about someone who did this with a Mac. I'm just too lazy to search for the link.

Easy (2, Interesting)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058575)

Tell the police that since they were stolen, people keep sending you notices that you have signed up for child porn websites.... bet they can find the IP then, and subsequently the location and thief.

Re:Easy (1)

dotfile (536191) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058693)

Hmm, file a false police report. Bold strategy, that way when you and the thieves are both in the same cell for booking, they can kick the shit out of you.

Re:Easy (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24058911)

Yeah, everyone knows only cops are allowed to file false police reports to catch the bad guys.

Help 911! (3, Funny)

nanospook (521118) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058577)

If they hook up a modem, have it call 911 and hang up. Have it do this over and over.. they will get a visit! If you can figure out how, have the computer place the call and play back a synthesized speech explaining that this computer belongs to you and is stolen.

Re:Help 911! (1)

Rob Kaper (5960) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058769)

Sure, let's take away resources from our emergency services.

The second option doesn't make sense to me either, if 911 were to respond to that, then surely you could just call them yourself to report a theft.

haunt that box .. (2, Insightful)

ad0n (1171681) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058581)

if you have access to the new "owner's" social-networking and private information, this may be a perfect opportunity for vigilante justice or, failing that, pure entertainment value. haunt that box .. ( insert scary ghost sounds here )

Log information, find out who they are. (4, Informative)

urbanriot (924981) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058591)

If you have full access t to the system, start logging EVERYTHING. I'm sure eventually you'll find someone going to a myspace, facebook or checking email.

Write down the IP address, find the ISP and call them and ask them to log that you called with the date and time, and the IP address. I wouldn't expect you to tell you who it is, but have them log the user at that time so you can reference it later.

Re:Log information, find out who they are. (1)

anerki (169995) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058811)

Isn't that information protected by Privacy? Hence unusable in court?

xkcd has the answer (5, Funny)

PinkyDead (862370) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058593)

Something similiar to: http://www.xkcd.com/440/ [xkcd.com]

A few thoughts.. (1)

stingray (73105) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058603)

A few thoughts...

- Work with either local law enforcement (based on the IP) and / or the FBI.

- You may be able to get the ISP to reveal the user's identity be working with the authorities.

- You may be able socially engineer the billing information from the ISP, by acting on behalf of this person.

- With full access to the machine, you may be able to find other revealing information on their network.

- Try to email them a link to a free something, that they won. Make it enticing, but not too over-the-top.

Flash the Bios (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24058613)

Flash the bios with something unusable.......

If they want stolen stuff, then break it.....

Good luck fixing that!

A couple suggestions... (2, Insightful)

dotfile (536191) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058617)

If you have the IP addresses, you should be able to contact the ISP to determine where they might be. The ISP might even have a contact with the local police who does have a clue, since they have to deal with people stealing equipment too.

Also, if you have email addresses and similar information, you may be able to use some "social engineering" to get the thieves to give you their address or a land line number you can use to do a reverse lookup.

It will take some work either way. Unfortunately, there seems to be an attitude that has developed over the past couple of decades that property crimes aren't a big deal, just let the insurance pay for it. I disagree. It *is* a big deal. Thieves need to be caught, stopped and punished.

The Police Aren't Paid To Care (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24058627)

You have no financial interest in these things? Then of course the cops have more important things to be dealing with. They can't prosecute every single breach of the law so they have to prioritize and some worthless old PCs are not a priority. Hell, that's almost recycling.

Re:The Police Aren't Paid To Care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24058749)

Agree. Good luck with that.

We asked the cops to arrest a drunken driver who hit my car as he snoozed down our street. They acted like we were inconveniencing them.

Thanks Chamblee, GA police! Protect and serve, OK?

Kiddie pr0n (1)

wcspxyx (120207) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058631)

Go find some kiddie pr0n, download it on these machines remotely, then file an anonymous tip. Problem solved.

find the right people to talk with (4, Insightful)

v1 (525388) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058645)

talk to the police chief in the town, talk with the local sheriff. If you can't get satisfaction, talk with the local newspaper. Also try the county judge, they may give you some insight on how to motivate the law on that area.

Be sure to keep meticulous records on IP addresses, dates, times, etc. Find out what ISP they are using and contact them. They will very likely tell you they cannot give YOU information, but they probably will give this information to the police/sheriff. Make sure that happens before their records are rotated and wiped. It may be necessary for them to fax the ISP a request or get it in writing, again make sure this process moves forward, keep tabs on progress and that it doesn't be come a "we didn't have time to bother".

There are other creative ideas you could employ. Put a script on the laptop that emails the county judge once an hour saying "hello from stolen laptop located in your district. Just a reminder for you that your law enforcement has yet to recover this identified stolen property after having been notified of its location." Be sure it CCs the local sheriff/police chief. If you know the mayor or governor's email address, that makes a good CC also.

If they ask you to stop the emails, refuse. Sorry that laptop's been stolen. Maybe you should go get it for me and I'll turn off the script?

Easy! Make some money. (3, Funny)

chalkyj (927554) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058653)

Record their credit card details then charge them for the computer they "bought". :)

Computer Crimes division? (4, Informative)

djc6 (86604) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058661)

My brother's desktop computer was stolen in NYC. He started showing up on Instant Messenger, and some young kids were using the computer and accepted a video chat request! From there I had their IP address. The detective handling the case had no idea what I was talking about, but it turns out NYC (and maybe your municipality) has a computer crimes squad. My brother contacted them directly with the IP address I retrieved, and they were able to recover the computer pretty quickly! So try and find if there is a department that handles electronic fraud, computer crimes, that sort of thing.

When all else fails.... (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058663)

Well, if you've got full control, you have a lot of options. How vindictive are you? Once you've exhausted all avenues or enquiry, you could connect in, set up a massive raging ravenous bittorrent seed of lots of rubbish pop music and wait for the RIAA to nail the guy for you.

PowerSolution (5, Funny)

Archon-X (264195) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058705)

Call the cops back, tell them not to worry about following up the theft, as you just went around and shot the thief.

See how fast they scuttle ;)

Crap! (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058753)

Forgot to wipe it before selling it to that guy outside the 7/11.

Thanks for the heads up! You're a good man :D

Obvious (5, Funny)

Ctrl-Z (28806) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058755)

If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire... The A-Team.

eBay! (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058757)

eBay!

On a tangent, some cops DO know the difference (3, Interesting)

distantbody (852269) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058761)

In fact, recently a crooked Australian cop by the name of Mark Standen working as "NSW Crime Commission investigator" was spied on by way of hacking his computer and recording the webcam output. What was ironic was that the guys job as said investigator meant that he was that he knew (almost) every surveillances tactic in the book! It was a case of a (police anti-corruption) watcher being watched by an inner circle of the same watchers...

I actually do work for a PD. (5, Informative)

UncHellMatt (790153) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058763)

And we handle this regularly. The department local to where the thefts occurred should have been notified in the first place and a police report filed. If you've done that, there will be an officer associated with that report. Get in touch with him/her directly with the information you have. If you can't, find out who the detectives are for that PD and get in touch with them. If you can gather any and all information you've got regarding IP addresses, etc., put it all together before getting in touch.

Unfortunately, if they're not remotely tech savvy and/or simply afraid of technology, it may take some prodding. Most state police agencies have teams specifically tasked with this sort of thing, so it may be that you have to contact your state's police for help.

When you bring any documentation, also make sure you have estimated costs of all the hardware. That will sometimes help get people's attention, being able to say it's X number of dollars. Not saying it's right, but much of the time you run into departments who won't pay much attention to "petty" thefts, but will take notice of $2000 or more. There have been a number of /. stories regarding people in your situation tracking down stolen computers. You might try searching for those or Google articles and blogs about the steps folks have taken when facing lackluster police response.

Re:I actually do work for a PD. (3, Informative)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058953)

All the hardware and all the software. Not just the hardware. If they stole a $700 copy of Photoshop (retail), for example, that can push the dollar figure way up.

I would also add that your best bet is to contact the upstream ISP for the IP number and inform them of the situation. Let them know that you need to work with police on it and need to know what city it is in so that you can get a local PD to follow up. They won't give you the address without a warrant or court order, but they should be willing to give you the city. Once you know what city it is in, you can then contact their PD and follow up with their computer crimes division, assuming they have one. If they don't, ask who their most computer-savvy officer is. They're bound to have at least one or two people who help maintain their website on the side as a minimum. Try to work with that officer (or if it's a non-officer staffer, try to work with an officer through them since having somebody who understands tech who the officers already know will put you in a better position as far as getting them to trust you).

Do a traceroute to the IP number (or if it's behind a wormhole route, do a traceroute from their IP to www.google.com or something) and see if you see any useful domain names in the trace. If so, it doesn't matter who owns the netblock. Go to whoever owns the domain. If, for example, you can track it to a university campus, you're in even better shape, of course, as they are more likely to work with you without the need to get a warrant if you can show that the computer is stolen and that you are in control over a computer on their network. They are also likely to be technically competent as would an ISP, but unlike an ISP, they have user agreements that almost certainly allow them to investigate their users. Then, ask them to help you work with the campus cops to get your laptop back.

A slightly more indirect solution (1)

Fuji Kitakyusho (847520) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058767)

Upload terrorism plans against US targets to the machines (along with a bunch of child porn just for good measure), and set the wheels in motion to have the theives disappeared in Gitmo.

Best way to get back ... (1)

CristianoMonteiro (20665) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058791)

Baseball bat ?

the sad truth is the dollar amount (1)

lyapunov (241045) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058819)

My mentor at a university told me an interesting story. He once had an active attack, called the FBI as the attack originated overseas and their first question was "Is the computer worth more than $10k?"

It is damned sad, and whats more frustrating is there is no way to put a dollar value on data. You would think that this would be a no brainer if personally identifiable information is involved.
 
This was several years ago, so I do not know if the threshhold has increased, but with power to cost decreasing few places have single machines worth more than $20k nowadays.

Webcam? (1)

madcat2c (1292296) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058821)

A lady nabbed people that stole her MAC by connecting back to it and snapping pictures with a webcam. If you know the IP address, go to http://www.ip-adress.com/ [ip-adress.com] and it will tell you the city / county it is in. Go to that city / county police department and file a report. Call the ISP they are using and get the physical address. Have the cops go pick it up.

What you need to do is this ( I've been there) (1)

assemblerex (1275164) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058827)

The FBI won't care unless the theft is over
$250,000 or something like that.

Forget the local police, contact the local SHERIFF
as he will have the ability to do the arrests,
and most will have some kind of internet crimes
officer (mostly for child porn).
Visit the man in person. Bring a copy of thepolice report. Tell him about getting a subpoena
from the courts to get the info. Call him every single day. Call the mayor.

These people won't want to do anything. Believe
me I have been there. You're going to have to
do a lot of work.

Be prepared for the end result: some 11 yearold's mother being arrested for buying a stolen pc
off some neighborhood guy or off craigslist because
they are poor. I doubt you will get the original thief.

Good luck

Setup a fake myspace page..... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24058831)

I'll tell you what worked for me when my laptop was stolen in grad school with my thesis on it and my laptop "phoned home" with screen shots of the desktop and the ip addresses it was connecting from.

Setup a fake myspace page with pictures of a cute girl. Friend the dumbass thief, flirt awhile, and then get them to come out on a "date". When you finally meet up with them, bring a few of your own friends with any weapon you deem necessary. Once you meet them and they figure out what is going on, tell them how you found them and let them know if you don't get your property back you will do damage with whatever weapon you chose to bring.

In my case the guy who stole my laptop passed out when he was confronted (very pathetic) and we had to wait for him to wake up. When he woke back up he was still so confused and frightened by how we tracked him down that he gave me twice what the laptop was worth just so we wouldn't call the cops on him because it would ruin his chances at becoming a doctor (apparently he was a med student).

Some people don't like vigilante justice but from what I've seen in the past from my own experience and the experience of my friends and acquaintances, the cops aren't very good at recovering stolen property and I'm not rolling in enough money to be robbed and just shrug it off.

Posted anonymous for the obvious reasons.

Exploding CD's? (0)

gelfling (6534) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058839)

There is a Swiss company that makes a CD you can put in your PC and you have to periodically type a security code else the CD actually bursts into flames a-la Mission Impossible.

You have their google logins etc? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24058847)

You have the thief's myspace and google logins? All kinds of mischief spring to mind.

First and foremost, You should be able to discern quite a bit about who and where the thief is by looking through their emails, myspace messages, profiles, friends etc. Look through web browser histories etc to see if they use any mapping websites, in which case you can probably grab their address. Does the laptop have a webcam? Grab a picture of the thief, that and their general location might be enough for the police (they may well be familiar with this thief already, most police forces know their local troublemakers pretty well.)

At the very least you should be able to fuck up the thief's relationships: use his login to send pictures of (unimpressive) penises pulled from the internet, along with crude and suggestive remarks, to any females in his address book. Make sure to CC their boyfriends. Email porn to his mother. Make sure everyone in his address book knows he is a thief. And a Britney Spears fan. And a kiddie fiddler.

Set up a keylogger and screencap software, and hope he does some online ordering/ banking. Once you have his bank details, order him some first class plane tickets to Bhagdad, or a few sets of those lovely $499 ethernet cables we saw on /. the other week.

Sounds like fun...

Root kits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24058853)

Personally if they were my machines and the police won't act on the IP then I would remotely install a root kit and should your devices have web cams I would photograph the thieving perpetrators. Then maybe the police will respond to an actual image. Also this would allow you to log all activity should they try to use email or any social sites suchas myspace or facebook.

Easy (1)

sirstar (789206) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058857)

Find out what ISP they are going through and report this to the FBI/Police/Lawyer (like everyone else says). Then disable the system... if you have access to the system (remote control) take all of the permissions off of the HD. Once this is done, the system won't even boot up, as the system won't have access to it (if it is windows that is).

Call the DA... (4, Insightful)

Panaflex (13191) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058871)

Call your district attorney's office. They love this kind of stuff, honestly - and they'll be happy to track down thieves with the assistance of law enforcement.

If the computers have been taken across state lines - you may be able to contact the FBI as well.

If they can get on the front page with a table full of stolen gear - they'll be really happy.

forget police (3, Interesting)

Tom (822) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058881)

Unless you are extremely lucky (which you aren't, since you tried), you will not get police who cares or knows - one of either, but both is highly unlikely. Not to put them down - most officers with the know-how simply have more important things to deal with than some theft.

If your machines are brand-machines, and registered to your name or company, my suggestion would be to remotely disable them to the point where they need to be brought in for repairs, clue in the manufacturer, and they just might return them to the owner they have on record, i.e. you.

And even if not, you probably made sure the thieves can't use them any longer, which according to your words you'd also judge as a victory.

Make sure it's something a non-geek can't solve, like with a re-install. Setting a BIOS or EFI password and then pointing the boot device to a non-existant one could work great.

Call your insurance company (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24058919)

and get another one.

You're not smarter than thieves, and neither are cops. If you were, you wouldn't have been robbed.

Tweak the Modem (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058931)

To dial 911 and play a GSM file stating that this call is originating from a stolen computer and would the dispatcher kindly dispatch the police this location and arrest the people at it.

MAFIAA? (1)

nebulus4 (799015) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058937)

You could always ask RIAA/MPAA to help you ;)

You just won a brand new big screen TV! (1)

IpSo_ (21711) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058941)

If you have full access to the computer remotely, follow the lead of the phishers... Setup a fake web-site that is sure to get their contact information and make it the home page of their web browser:

You just won a brand new big screen TV. Enter your mailing address here and we'll ship it to you immediately!

Pass the address on to the police.

hm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24058947)

I'd use their myspace and gmail logins to ruin their lives but I'm Anonyous, so this might not suit you.

Bittorrent ... (1)

mbyte (65875) | more than 6 years ago | (#24058957)

if you have remote access .. its too easy to get them caught .. just install your favorite P2P client, and start downloading illegal materials :)

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