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Wifi and Laptops Adds Up To Theft

Zonk posted about 8 years ago | from the i'm-being-stolen-right-now dept.

329

Ant writes to mention an SFGate article about the increase in laptop theft in the world of ubiquitous wifi. From the article: "San Francisco police statistics show a disturbing trend. Just 18 laptop computer robberies were logged in 2004, but the figure jumped to 48 last year. There were 18 as of the end of March, a pace that could surpass 70 crimes this year. 'It's a changing culture, and crime is following it'"

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329 comments

Or it could just be... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15102783)

That there are more laptops, being stolen at the same rate. What does wifi have to do with it?

Re:Or it could just be... (4, Insightful)

Loconut1389 (455297) | about 8 years ago | (#15102803)

TFA points out that people congregate with laptops at hotspots. This is true. Thiefs know they can find one or many at such a place.

Before I RTFA'd, I had the same thought. Afterwards, I still have the contention that people would still sit at starbucks and work on excel wireless or no.

More laptops does = more crime. Hotspots may be a factor, but not nearly like they make it out to be.

Re:Or it could just be... (2, Interesting)

frdmfghtr (603968) | about 8 years ago | (#15102880)

TFA points out that people congregate with laptops at hotspots. This is true. Thiefs know they can find one or many at such a place.


Makes sense...that's one premise behind the convoy antisubmarine tactic in WWII. By concentrating the supply ships in a smaller area, you knew (roughly) where the submarines had to be in order to attack.

By concentrating the wireless laptops in a smaller area, thieves know where to go to steal them. Same idea, but working in favor of the thieves.

Re:Or it could just be... (3, Insightful)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about 8 years ago | (#15103195)

Same idea, but working in favor of the thieves.

So why not concentrate a few plain-clothes cops in the same areas and tip the balance the other way?

Re:Or it could just be... (1)

WinstonSmith2600 (961157) | about 8 years ago | (#15102872)

Wifi was mentioned because the article was trying to use these crimes to demonize wifi. It's part of the conditioning process.

My question is why didnt he have his laptop locked up? Whenever you use your laptop outside of your home it should always be secured. Even at work we have to lockup our laptops because someone might walk off with it. Obviously he would need a combo lock so they couldnt just take the key.

Re:Or it could just be... (0, Redundant)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 8 years ago | (#15102912)

it depends on what lock was used since a certain number of locks can be bypassed via a ballpoint pen + ?
bonus points if somebody has a link to a detailish account

Cost of gas! (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | about 8 years ago | (#15102910)

I think it is caused by the cost of gas. As the gas price goes up, laptops get stolen.....

Or maybe it is global warming...

The real reason is most likely that there has been a big upswing in the use of private laptops. The number of laptops has increased, so more get stolen. Further, in the early days, laptops were mainly exec toys and were well cared for and probably well guarded. Now they're very common and being lost/stolen more often.

FUD (5, Insightful)

babbling (952366) | about 8 years ago | (#15102790)

Attacking someone for their laptop isn't really any different than attacking them for anything else. This isn't new. Whenever you reveal in public something of particular worth, there's a possibility that some moron is going to attack you in the hopes of stealing it from you.

That's the Democratic Party M.O. (n/t) (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15102820)

n/t

FUD-Worth every penny. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15102882)

"Whenever you reveal in public something of particular worth, there's a possibility that some moron is going to attack you in the hopes of stealing it from you."

That's why I don't take my girlfriend out.

Re:FUD-Worth every penny. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15103143)

You're smart, my friend Mario went out with his once -- big mistake.

Re:FUD (4, Insightful)

DerGeist (956018) | about 8 years ago | (#15102922)

Exactly -- this same kind of FUD came out with cell phones too, people were saying if you carry too nice of a cell phone, it'll be eyed by thugs who hang out in alleyways with various blunt metallic objects and you'll die. They'll completely ignore your Prada bag, fur coat, 5 carat diamong ring, and 24-karat gold watch.

My point here is, like the parent poster, you need to keep your eyes open when you reveal that you have something of worth. A wifi hotspot is just a better excuse to pull out your laptop in public.

Don't stare at the screen intently, keep your eyes out for anyone who doesn't look trustworthy. It's not that hard to spot, crimes like these are generally crimes of opportunity (in TFA it sounds organized, though, but note they still picked an easy target) Don't make yourself an easy target, stay in plain view of many people, watch your back (try to sit against a wall if possible, it makes you virtually impossible to sneak up on).

If someone shady approaches you, prepare yourself, if they continue and you don't trust them, make a scene. Even if you look like a jerk (or even insane) you'll be alive and keep your laptop. Most importantly, do NOT take a long, dark path to your car. This is key; many times criminals will "stake out" a place for customers carrying a thick wad or valuables, then mug them on their way to their car. Under your car, behind it, and behind nearby objects are favorite hiding places.

The number one thing criminals hate is attention. Keep in mind the thoughts of a criminal and you'll be fine:

* Quick grab, quick escape
* No witnesses
* They do not necessarily want to kill you or anyone else (most criminals try not to add time voluntarily) but are most likely armed

Re:FUD (2, Insightful)

walmartshopper67 (943351) | about 8 years ago | (#15103172)

You're forgetting one of the most important aspects of criminal behavior - ease. Don't be the easiest target. The other 2 conditions you mentioned are part of it, but it simple things like carrying your keys like they are brass knuckles, making a lot of noise, or just giving off an "aura" of "i'm not a victim". I'm serious, criminals don't want to get caught, so they are looking for the weakest victim, so they don't. If you look like you can run fast or have a big flashlight, they'll go elsewhere.

Re:FUD (1)

BunnyClaws (753889) | about 8 years ago | (#15102978)

I agree this is nothing new. Remember kids getting mugged for thier Air Jordans? Just last Christmas I read about some kid getting mugged for his Xbox-360 outside of the store he bought it in.

Re:FUD (1, Interesting)

znu (31198) | about 8 years ago | (#15103043)

Well, there is one important difference. 15 years ago, robbing a regular middle-class guy would get you maybe $30-60 in cash and a $100 watch. These days, you have every other college student or white collar employee carrying around a $400 cell phone, a $300 music player, and possibly a $1500 computer. And they're using all of this stuff in public. This makes mugging people a lot more profitable than it used to be.

Of course, presumably burglary is now less profitable than it used to be, since people carry more of their expensive stuff around with them instead of leaving it unattended at home when they go out.

Re:FUD (1)

stoph ct (899877) | about 8 years ago | (#15103242)

Of course, presumably burglary is now less profitable than it used to be, since people carry more of their expensive stuff around with them instead of leaving it unattended at home when they go out.

forget about their $1000 computer and $1000 LCD television.... :)

There is a shopping center in the SF Bay Area (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15102804)

in Milpitas (McCarthy Ranch) that thieves have been targeting. They do there during lunch and right after work, and do "smah and grab" style robberies on cars. The target: laptops in bags left unattended while the victim shops. Police have had to issue special alerts to shoppers.

Put your laptop in the trunk when you leave your office, so that potential thieves don't see you place it there when you arrive at the mall.

Re:There is a shopping center in the SF Bay Area (1)

commodoresloat (172735) | about 8 years ago | (#15102866)

Put your laptop in the trunk when you leave your office, so that potential thieves don't see you place it there when you arrive at the mall.

Or leave it at the office. Why are you bringing your laptop to the mall on your lunch break?

Re:There is a shopping center in the SF Bay Area (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15102955)

Why are you bringing your laptop to the mall on your lunch break?

So I can find the mall, duh.

Re:There is a shopping center in the SF Bay Area (1)

Firehed (942385) | about 8 years ago | (#15103030)

Why are you bringing your laptop to the mall on your lunch break?
Ask that to the idiots who leave archive tapes on their passenger seat which are full of much more sensitive data than you'll find on the average laptop. Or, better yet, ask the idiots who let employees take home those sensitive tapes.

Perhaps this is after work though... you won't be able to hit much more than the food court at a mall during a lunch break, and surely there's some cheaper, better food available closer to the office than what's at the mall food court.

Re:There is a shopping center in the SF Bay Area (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 8 years ago | (#15103089)

you won't be able to hit much more than the food court at a mall during a lunch break, and surely there's some cheaper, better food available closer to the office than what's at the mall food court.

I currently work near McCarthy Ranch. It's more like a giant strip mall with a BUNCH of standalone restaurants - and except for it and another mall on the opposite side of the freeway it's nearly a services-dead area for miles in all directions. (MIlipitas proper has a few restaurants in the old downtown. But the bulk of them are in those two malls and a third one a few miles away.)

Don't think "mall". Think "downtown" - essentially the only one around.

And there's a LOT of hi-tek around it - including Cisco's eastern campus, Redback, Agere, ... I could go on for pages.

Re:There is a shopping center in the SF Bay Area (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15103248)

They do there during lunch and right after work, and do "smah and grab" style robberies on cars. The target: laptops in bags left unattended while the victim shops.

unattended != robbery

robbery: The taking of money or goods in the possession of another, from his or her person or immediate presence, by force or intimidation.

What about iPod Thefts? (0, Troll)

xoip (920266) | about 8 years ago | (#15102805)

I wonder how many were stolen in before everyone had them?
As laptops get cheaper, there are more people with them...ergo greater likelyhood for theft.

Re:What about iPod Thefts? (1)

Ruff_ilb (769396) | about 8 years ago | (#15102874)

iPods are definitely a hot theft item. I've seen multitudes of iPods stolen around campus, and have heard horror stories around the local high school. I've even met members of gangs that dealt strictly in stolen iPods.

I would worry more about these than laptops, tbh. You can't exactly hide a laptop in a pocket, and many more people own iPods, I'd theorize.

Re:What about iPod Thefts? (2, Interesting)

shawb (16347) | about 8 years ago | (#15103099)

With iPods, I believe the "hide in the pocket" potentiral works more for the thief than the potential victims. People listening to their iPod usually have the signature white headphones (although some companies are coming out with copycat white earbuds because people want the look without necesarilly having an iPod) so thieves know pretty much who has one. The thief, once he has the iPod, can hid it in HIS pocket untill he knows he made a clean getaway. If this was a bulky laptop or something, it would be easier to yell "stop the thief with the laptio."

Although I suppose not being in a pocket does allow for some crimes of opportunity... setting the laptop down unguarded for just a minute while the owner goes to the bathroom, gets another cup of coffee, goes outside for a cigarette or... whatever... an iPod would go with the owner.

Re:What about iPod Thefts? (1)

DextroShadow (957200) | about 8 years ago | (#15103005)

Why is this modded off topic? It's totally relevent. You people need to read more than one sentance of a comment to properly moderate it.

Re:What about iPod Thefts? (1)

Cutterex (787660) | about 8 years ago | (#15103183)

I agree. Not only are there more people with laptops, particularly with the addition of wifi, a lot more people who wander off when using the internet in libraries, coffee shops, and campuses. I bet there's been a substantial increase in cell phone theft since 1990 as well, that doesn't mean it's headline-worthy.

WiFI? Laptops? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15102814)

Didn't Dell invent both of those things?

Really? That's it? (5, Insightful)

theheff (894014) | about 8 years ago | (#15102815)

If you consider that San Francisco consists of millions of people... is 18 really a lot? I mean sure, stolen property it stolen property, but the figures sound rather minute.

Re:Really? That's it? (4, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 8 years ago | (#15102830)

Presumably that's just the 18 that bothered to fill out a police report. The true number is probably much higher.

Re:Really? That's it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15102857)

I think this number is pretty much accurate; I don't see many people not filling out a police report after having a $1500+ piece of equipment stolen from them. Anyone not wishing to talk to police probably isn't enjoying a Starbucks coffee at a hotspot anyway; I don't see a group of thugs hanging out eagerly clicking away at their TPS reports.

Re:Really? That's it? (4, Funny)

commodoresloat (172735) | about 8 years ago | (#15102892)

I don't see a group of thugs hanging out eagerly clicking away at their TPS reports.

Of course not.

They're working on the cover sheets.

Re:Really? That's it? (1)

NutscrapeSucks (446616) | about 8 years ago | (#15103215)

The local coffee shop has a had a few "grab and run" incidents. That is, someone is just pretending to read the newspaper or type his TPS reports and then dashes out the door with a much nicer laptop that some idiot left unattended.

I dunno, if I left $1500 in cash on the coffeeshop table while I went to the bathroom, I wouldn't expect it to be there when I got back, even if there's no thugs in sight.

Re:Really? That's it? (1)

Scowler (667000) | about 8 years ago | (#15102845)

There is less than a million people in San Francisco. There are millions more in surrounding cities, but these statistics are from the SF police department only.

Re:Really? That's it? (4, Insightful)

neurojab (15737) | about 8 years ago | (#15102879)

>If you consider that San Francisco consists of millions of people

While the metropolitan San Francisco Bay Area consists of millions of people (exactly how many depends on what you consider the bay area), SF itself houses only 744,230 (give or take). The most populous city in the bay area is San Jose, with 945,000.

But your basic point is right. Oakland (another bay area city, smaller than SF at 412,318) has had over 30 murders so far this year, so 18 laptop thefts isn't exactly a crime wave.

Re:Really? That's it? (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15103107)

That said...Oakland is kinda known for people getting knocked off.

SF isn't quite the Big Laptop Theft Capitol of the World.

In other news, statisticians report that 90% of the criminals were men with Gucci handbags, tight pants, and a lisp...

Re:Really? That's it? (1)

nelsonal (549144) | about 8 years ago | (#15103289)

How many folk come to the city during the day? DC is similar census pop is 500k but it swells to more than a million when everyone gets to work from the burbs.

Re:Really? That's it? (0, Troll)

Darth_brooks (180756) | about 8 years ago | (#15102987)

Robbery, not theft. Theft is "fuck, my laptop is gone." Robbery is "Fuck you, gimme your laptop." Subtle difference.

This is a case of "correlation does not equal causation." Wifi hotspots make it easier to work outside, away from the (as far as being robbed by a passerby / homeless guy / crackhead is concerned) safe confines of your office. Greater opportunity for crime tends to equal more crime. Of course, this is San Francisco we're talking about. 70 laptops getting jacked is probably the social equivilent of the Manson family & Son of Sam in their minds.

The general vibe I get off of that city is that if a man gets shot to death on the SF city hall steps, the papers will read "Violent murder takes place in Oakland", and if the Pope visits Oakland, the same papers will read "Pope Visits San Francisco suburb."

(it's an Ypsi - Ann Arbor relationship)

Re:Really? That's it? (1)

EugeneK (50783) | about 8 years ago | (#15103184)

SF city hall steps, the papers will read "Violent murder takes place in Oakland"

Hehe, they'll stay within the bounds of the truth by saying, "Murder occurs in Oakland vicinity" ;)

Percentage of Laptop Sales (2, Interesting)

SlashdotOgre (739181) | about 8 years ago | (#15102824)

As laptops become more common, an increase in the number stolen ought to be expected. I didn't find it in the article, but an important number to note would be the percentage increase in laptop sales over the same period (2004-2005).

Now I understand! (4, Funny)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 8 years ago | (#15102834)

In a recent speech Negropante [slashdot.org] said: "You see. When I said we were building $100 laptops for developing countries, you people assumed I meant Africa. What I was referring to was Caliifrnia. Have you been to some of the neighborhoods in LA? You can get killed for your shoes. In order to make it safer for folks in cities like San Fracisco where, let's face it, they cannot defned themselves, I developed this idea. Give them an etch-a-sketch interface, and an off brand of Linux, and NO self respecting thief would even bother.
Sure, thre will be the occasional bully who takes your cheap computer just to break it and watc you cry. That is life. But there will be no secondary market for these computers. EVAR!
I fully expect to win a Nobel for this."

That's it? (5, Funny)

cdrudge (68377) | about 8 years ago | (#15102837)

18, 48, and 70? In San Francisco? I would have guessed that number to be several times that.

Hmm...actually, for 2004, there was nearly 5 times as many murders as there were laptop thefts. Moral of the story is that if you carry a laptop, you are 5 times less likely to be murdered!

Re:That's it? (1, Informative)

drphil (320469) | about 8 years ago | (#15102917)

Dude, RTFA! not theft, but robbery. I'm sure in SF as in any major city there are plenty of laptop thefts. Robbery is a much bolder crime. The point is that WiFi hotspots are beacons flashing to all criminals bold enough to commit robbery that there are $1000-$2000 articles out in plain site - It's pretty tough to go to a hotspot location and conceal your laptop as you would a valuable when you are in a place where you might be robbed.
I'll assume your "carrying a laptop = you are 5x less likely to get murdered" was a weak attempt a humor and you really aren't that innumerate.

Re:That's it? (2, Insightful)

Wilf_Brim (919371) | about 8 years ago | (#15103192)

The scary thing here is that the guy was stabbed for a friggin laptop. Rather unusual. Most thugs would much rather use intimidation and some shoving rather than lethal force. Especially for something like a laptop, only worth (to them) a few hundred bucks. And, for the /.ers in SF, if a couple of mean looking dudes attempt to take your laptop, let them. Lets do the math here: Cost of laptop: $2500. Cost of EMS run, ED treatment and stabilization, night in a monitored bed, another night on the floor: About $30,000, conservatively. If things go a little bit sideways, add a trip to the OR, a stay in the ICU, and a few more days in hospital. Cost now: about $120,000-$200,000. Let the freaking thing go. And yes, you may have health insurance. But somebody has to pay. And hopefully, you have a rider on your homeowners/renters policy for your laptop. One other funny thing. I enjoy how the guy made a point of saying that he had all his data. Yes, by God, I may have nearly bled out but but I have my favorite MP3s! Yes, we have our sense of proportion intact. Reminds me of the old joke about the yuppie who gets sideswiped getting into his BMW....

Re:That's it? (1)

Asm-Coder (929671) | about 8 years ago | (#15103233)

Thank you for the good advice.

Now, on the other hand, he only got modded a freking ONE! I mean, come on this is a +3 Informative at the least!

Here's the problem that I have with this story.... (3, Interesting)

8127972 (73495) | about 8 years ago | (#15102846)

While it is unfortunate that one person got stabbed for their laptop, I have to wonder if this is somehow being blown somewhat out of proportion. Yes there has been an increase in this sort of crime (at least in the SF area), but how long before Starbucks gets cameras and the like to make these environments less appealing to thieves? My guess is that it won't take long. After all, the laptop user is a user who is willing to pay for their coffee, which means that they want to keep that cash rolling in.

Actually, (2, Informative)

AWhiteFlame (928642) | about 8 years ago | (#15102851)

I'm thinking that its just because there are more laptops in general. Five years ago, laptops that I saw were not exactly mainstream, they were for business people, or people like me who can't leave a computer screen. (There are exceptions, as always, but.) Maybe because wifi wasn't as developed and people's main interest in computers is the internet, or maybe just because laptops are traditionally not as powerful as desktops. Now, it seems that when someone buys a computer, having a laptop is seen by most people like having a desktop but more. I don't blame them (see Macbook, yum), but I'm not sure that it's a culture change as they suggest. I think its probably the same ratio, there are just more people with them at all.

Besides, did anyone read anything in the article about wifi causing the problem as the summary suggests? It just said that wireless hotspots are targets for laptop theft..well duh..laptop theft is going to occur where laptop users congregate..

Re:Actually, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15103079)

Besides, did anyone read anything in the article about wifi causing the problem as the summary suggests?

I believe the suggestion is a corollary to what you mentioned in your first paragraph. Not only are people buying more laptops because of increased WiFi access, but more laptops are actually coming out of people's bags in public because of that Internet availability. Many people who have used laptops/notebooks in the past were using them for portability of data and applications between the office and the other places they have to do work (one example would be a field technician who has to do diagnostics on equipment and/or consult electronic manuals) - places where the chances of being robbed like this would be slim. Nowadays, it's enticing to take that laptop that you've been carrying around anyway and get a fix of the Interweb without even thinking about the possibility of being robbed.

I would also note that it's kind of sad that places willing to spring for public wireless Internet access aren't also springing for some security for the patrons...I'll bet a lot of them have cameras pointed at the register, though!

Comrades! (-1, Offtopic)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | about 8 years ago | (#15102858)

In Soviet Russia theft equals YOU!!
In Soviet Russia property equals YOU!!

Therefore, property is theft.

Re:Comrades! (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15102887)

In Soviet Russia theft equals YOU!! In Soviet Russia property equals YOU!!

Therefore, property is theft.

In Capitalist America jokes equal FUNNY!!

Please bear this in mind next time.

Re:Comrades! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15103126)

Yeah, and ANYWHERE in the world, a moderator posting in a thread he has moderated as an anonymous coward equals cunt.

I'd tell you to bear this in mind next time, but you're obviously already well aware of what a huge gaping cunt you are.

duh (3, Insightful)

tacokill (531275) | about 8 years ago | (#15102864)

Did anyone happen to consider that, since there are MORE laptops in the world, there might be more thefts?

Correlation doesn't mean causation and all that jazz.


(wtf - this is news now?)

Surprise, surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15102891)

Isn't this obvious? People take their computers out of the house more, and computers get stolen more.

A simple precaution (4, Interesting)

ortholattice (175065) | about 8 years ago | (#15102898)

I have my browser home page (in both Mozilla and IE) set to a web page on my server that no one else knows about. Unsophisticated thieves, when they get home or to their fence's place, will probably try it out to make sure it works, before reinstalling the OS or whatever (if they're even that competent). One of the first things they'll typically do is fire up the browser. Then their IP is captured in my server's web log.

I'm not saying this is the only precaution one should take, or that it's guaranteed to work. But it's easy to do and increases the likelihood that some evidence will be captured. It depends on the stupidity of the thief, and those kinds of people often just aren't that smart.

Re:A simple precaution (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | about 8 years ago | (#15103082)

Of course, that presumes that they immediately wire it in to their fences broadband network - or have a neighbours wifi to bounce through.

Re:A simple precaution (2, Interesting)

EvanED (569694) | about 8 years ago | (#15103137)

Why not just add a program to the startup sequence that does it?

I've actually thought about doing something like what you suggest but have been repulsed by the notion of not having a password required for sign-on.

Ah well, I don't have a laptop anyway (yet -- I plan on getting a tablet next winter) so it doesn't really matter.

Re:A simple precaution (1)

Technician (215283) | about 8 years ago | (#15103167)

Then their IP is captured in my server's web log.

Great, now you know the other Starbucks they went to.

Re:A simple precaution (2, Insightful)

pilsner.urquell (734632) | about 8 years ago | (#15103259)

Never thought of that one. Another thing that is a must is identification on your machine. Anyone who has ever gone to retrieve stolen property at the local P.D. Knows that one of the thing that will be asked of you is Can you identify it. I identified mine by painting my name and DOB, A combination that is highly unique, inside the battery bay, on the mother board, hard drive and engraved into the back cover. All out of sight. In the off chance my laptop is located ether m me or the police I will need to prove it is mine.

Re:A simple precaution (4, Informative)

PoitNarf (160194) | about 8 years ago | (#15103290)

Clever idea. Here's something a bit more advanced, but it costs money ofcourse. It's called Computrace and it's available on just about any laptop (they even have an OS X version). Their tracking agent attempts to make a call out to their servers every 24 hours. If it doesn't have an active internet connection, it will attempt to dial out through the modem if a phone line is connected. Newer Dells and IBMs actually store the tracking agent in the systems BIOS, so unless they plan on changing the motherboard out they're out of luck. We use this at my workplace quite extensively now, and have even used it to track "missing" laptops successfully. Check out their website for more info: http://www.absolute.com/ [absolute.com]

70 stolen laptops (1, Insightful)

ChrisGilliard (913445) | about 8 years ago | (#15102908)

Just 18 laptop computer robberies were logged in 2004, but the figure jumped to 48 last year. There were 18 as of the end of March, a pace that could surpass 70 crimes this year.

Maybe if the city would figure out a way to get the 14000 homeless people in San Francisco off the street, there would be less stolen laptops. Priorities, priorities, priorities.

Re:70 stolen laptops (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15103024)

From the article, it didn't sound like the perpretrators were 'homeless', but ...

I may be quite wrong, but you sound like yet another 'homelss advocate' who would rather preserve/protect/defend people living on the street than providing real solutions. For all of Newsom's faults (he's the mayor), he did one thing right - cancelling the cash payments to homeless folks, instead using the money to provide actual services (housing, food, etc.). There were *a lot more* 'homeless' in SF when you could get $400/month in cash from the city just for demonstrating that you had no residence. Where did that case go ? ... Why, to liquor stores and drug dealers, of course. The whole notion of government giving unrestricted cash (our tax $$$) to people who by their very situation have already demonstrated their lack of fiscal acuity, was, in a word, bizarre. I'm not a 'throw the bums out' kind of person, but I do believe in providing assistance that *actually improves the situation* for all concerned.

So maybe your complaint is that, now that the case has been cut off, these addicts/winos^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hhomeless people are resorting to overt theft to get their fix ?

Re:70 stolen laptops (1)

ChrisGilliard (913445) | about 8 years ago | (#15103133)

you sound like yet another 'homelss advocate' who would rather preserve/protect/defend people living on the street than providing real solutions.

No way man. The solution to poverty is never a free handout as you've clearly pointed out. The solution is to make it unatractive to be homeless in San Francisco. This can be done without being cruel.

Re:70 stolen laptops (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | about 8 years ago | (#15103162)

it'll be tough, SF doesn't get all that cold in the winter, though slashing animal control budgets could do the trick

Re:70 stolen laptops (1)

Aokubidaikon (942336) | about 8 years ago | (#15103221)

No way man. The solution to poverty is never a free handout as you've clearly pointed out. The solution is to make it unatractive to be homeless in San Francisco. This can be done without being cruel. Just cut off all free WiFi access. This will make the homeless take their stolen laptops and go to another city!

Laptop theft (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15102927)

There's nothing to worry about, it's not like 70 crimes is a lot. Anyway, what are the chances of dgafhsuilgruiagheeeeeeejklsd

Biometrics = increase in forced amputations! (4, Funny)

Itninja (937614) | about 8 years ago | (#15102936)

I have a Thinkpad (pre-Lenovo, so it'a good one) with wifi, and a biometric figerprint scanner. Can I assume that I am at a greater risk of being robbed and having my finger(s) cut off?

That would really be the only logical conclusion.

How many IPods? (0, Offtopic)

jhines (82154) | about 8 years ago | (#15102946)

How many IPods have been jacked in the same time? Or any other personally portable technology device, but thats all I can think of.

Stolen Property Registry (4, Interesting)

Detritus (11846) | about 8 years ago | (#15102966)

I'd like to see the creation of a publicly accessable stolen property registry, to make it harder for thieves to sell their loot. Auction sites, like eBay, could require sellers to list the serial numbers, if any, of all items that they are selling.

Re:Stolen Property Registry (1)

NutscrapeSucks (446616) | about 8 years ago | (#15103053)

There's been various attempts to pass a law like this in California, but eBay has successfully lobbied against it.

Robbery != Theft. (4, Informative)

vhold (175219) | about 8 years ago | (#15102976)

Once again I think the summarizer has confused the words and thus the discussion.

The key word here is robbery, which means violence or intimidation being used to steal the property.

I'm sure the number of laptop thefts is vastly higher. I worked at one company in the south of market area a few years back that was broken into several times and lost nearly 10 laptops alone.

SF only, not Bay Area (1, Flamebait)

Skynyrd (25155) | about 8 years ago | (#15102996)

Hmmm...

"So far, San Francisco appears to the only major Bay Area city to be hit by the problem. San Jose has been hit by laptop thefts, but it has yet to experience many of the robberies. "We haven't seen it yet,'' said Sgt. Nick Muyo of the San Jose police."

I doubt there's a correlation, but SF recently voted against gun ownership. In theory, everybody in SF is now unarmed, but there's a chance for legal carry in SJ.

More laptop thefts in an unarmed city?

- sitting back to watch the fireworks...

Re:SF only, not Bay Area (1)

Bulletz26 (967431) | about 8 years ago | (#15103031)

More laptop thefts in an unarmed city? Well that is not a valid correlation, as theft implies that the person who owns the stolen item is not present or aware of the crime when it takes place, so it doesn't matter if they are armed or not.

Re:SF only, not Bay Area (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15103147)

SF recently voted against gun ownership

How the fuck do you have a vote against gun ownership? And how retarded do you have to be to pass that law? That's like voting away your free speech, or your right to an attorney, or "taking the fifth," etc. With that kind of behavior though, I guess they deserve to get shot without defending themselves.

Or... (1)

SoulMaster (717007) | about 8 years ago | (#15103015)

Instead of blaming WIFI hotspots, why not do a correlation between # of laptops stolen vs. # of laptops owned. If the ratio stayed the same over the same period of time, then maybe I could see blaming hotspots.

PC Phone Home (3, Informative)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 8 years ago | (#15103045)

Seems to me there's a couple things one could do as a precaution:

  - Load an application that would have the laptop occasionally contact a server to see if it's been reported stolen, and if it has been, start reporting IP and MAC addresses it hears on WiFi in its vicinity, connections it has made for landline internet, perhaps taps on email going through it, and so on - and turn on the WiFi transmitter to broadcast the occasional "Here I Am" packet for direction finding.

  - Record the WiFi MAC address of the PC and sniff for it once it's stolen.

  - Record whatever info the PC will use to identify itself to Microsoft if/when somebody tries to register/authorize a fresh load of one of their products. (Here's where Microsoft could do the law abiding a service by reporting IP address and date/time to law enforcement when a stolen machine is reauthorized.)

Sort of a software LoJack.

If the theives don't eload the software the PC will "phone home" once the ultimate recipient starts running it, and it will be trackable. If they DO reload it the may call the cops down on themselves directly - and even if they do workarounds they still need to leave enough identity info on the machine for it to be usable - and forgeries in a global namespace also leave tracks.

Wardrivers could do a service by reporting approximate locations of reported-as-stolen MAC addresses, as a starting point for a direction-finding bunny hunt. A public-service distributed application (in the same vein as SETI-at-home) could do the same - or could blanket userland with beacons of known location for a WiFi-only replacement for GPS that would let the phone-home software identify its own location (if it can't do that adequately via currently known WiFi beacons such as hotspots.)

Recover a few (and identify and question the people who got them, with the threat of a "receiving stolen property" bust if they don't cooperate) and police can work back up the reselling chain to the thieves.

And yes I'm QUITE aware of how such systems could be abused.

Note that some of these can be done privately and in a moderately secure fashion. (For instance: open source phone-home app with strong encryption, using an owner-generated key to enable its reporting functions.)

Re:PC Phone Home (1)

Technician (215283) | about 8 years ago | (#15103182)

Seldom does the MAC address get past the router. Dynamic IP's take care of the rest. Your best bet is the Windows GUID.

Re:PC Phone Home (1)

scottv67 (731709) | about 8 years ago | (#15103190)

- Load an application that would have the laptop occasionally contact a server to see if it's been reported stolen, and if it has been, start reporting IP and MAC addresses it hears on WiFi

Can you provide details on how this information would help you locate the stolen laptop? Especially if the laptop is used behind a wireless router that uses a RFC1918 address range for the local systems? You'd get a table of strange MAC addresses (which are useless) and "192.168.1.20, 192.168.1.22, etc." How would you use this information to locate your stolen laptop?

Record the WiFi MAC address of the PC and sniff for it once it's stolen.

So you are going to wander around the city "wardriving" in an attempt to find your laptop? If you are not within 100 feet of your stolen laptop, you'll never find it by its MAC address. This is truly like a needle in a haystack. Do you expect the people who stole the laptop to sit down and start using the laptop at the same place they stole it from you?

I wouldn't steal a laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15103204)

As you point out, the mac identifies the computer. So, if you steal a laptop, you have to replace the nic. Plus, as you point out, there are call home programs. If the laptop has wifi, it doesn't even have to be connected to the net to report its approximate position. It should be able to do so even if it doesn't look like it's turned on. On the other hand, I've never heard of a laptop being recovered that way. You're also right about the deterrent effect. If it becomes known that lojack is common in an area, car thefts go down. (Mind you, they go up in neighboring areas.)

I was recently given a laptop for parts. The owner had died and the family couldn't get past the password. His brother brought it in to work and the computer guys couldn't get past the password. Now I have it, in trade for a little electronic work. Once I get a chance, I'll take it apart and see if I can erase the cmos. It's an old laptop. On a new Thinkpad, I wouldn't even bother trying. Maybe the thieves know something I don't.

I know that people steal laptops because we hear about it on the news when a laptop containing sensitive information gets stolen. The guy I buy parts from says he gets calls all the time from public telephones asking if he buys laptops. He says: "Sure, if you've got the bill of sale." click

I'm guessing that a thief will take a laptop once and discover that he can't unload it and will never bother to steal a laptop again.

The Real Danger (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15103077)

The number doesn't seem very high to me. How many cellphones were stolen in the same time period? Probably a lot more, I'm guessing...

The real danger is that a lot of laptops are actually owned by corporations that lend them out to travelling employees. The loss of a laptop in this scenario could also mean potential compromise of sensitive company data (SSNs, Bank Account and Routing numbers, etc.) Here at Bank of America, all employee laptops are required to come pre-installed with EFS (Encrypting Files System). Every file on the drive is encrypted, with the exception of the Windows system files. Which means that even if a thief is able to boot the machine without proper credentials (and we all know how easy that is), they still will not be able to access any data stored on the HDD. Their only option will be to a) spend months, if not years attempting to crack the encryption, or b) give up and reformat the drive.

Most criminals will simply go for option b - and since all the machines are insured, the company doesn't lose any money on the laptop, and the far more serious consequence of loss of sensitive client data is averted.

Oh Noes! (1)

glwtta (532858) | about 8 years ago | (#15103100)

Are they shitting me? 48 laptop robberies last year? They had 96 homicides in the same period - I doubt this %266.67 increase in laptop robberies (a rate of increase that hasn't continued, mind you) is at the top of their priority list.

Statistical Abuse (1)

.darkaiyen. (770089) | about 8 years ago | (#15103108)

Does a rise in the number of laptop thefts really mean that the culture is changing? Maybe just more people are bringing their laptops into situations (public places) where they may be stolen? Nah. BE SCARED OF CRIME!!!!

these are just the reported ones (1)

tedpearson (910434) | about 8 years ago | (#15103132)

Remember, this is just the number of reported laptop thefts in SF. The actual number is probably higher. People are less likely to report the theft of a laptop than, say, if their car got stolen. Especially if it's not a brand new laptop, though those are probably less likely to get stolen.

Use your brain (4, Informative)

Y-Crate (540566) | about 8 years ago | (#15103151)

I work at a large book retailer that has a well-established network of coffee bars outfitted with wireless hotspots.

This company loves for customers to hang out for hours (and truth be told, many hang out all day and night several days a week) because they invariably buy more stuff the longer they stick around. The longer they stay, the more relaxed they become. When it comes time to get a new book, many will simply get up and walk away from their unattended laptop for anywhere between 1 and 20 minutes (don't get me started on table camping). Many days I've stood there during slow periods in amazement at the amount of very expensive hardware just left in the open with no one to watch it.

It's inevitable that thieves will begin to exploit this as I've seen the same level of carelessness at similar retailers and sister stores in several states. There really isn't much I can do about it other than make friendly reminders when talking to customers - which risks offending the all-too-common customer with the over-inflated sense of self importance who finds any suggestion that they alter their behavior in any way (even if it will benefit them) as a severe insult.

I try to keep an eye on things, even though it's not my responsibility, and I'm usually too busy to notice what's going on in the seating area unless there is a major disturbance (in other words: never).

"Casual" laptop theft is going to increasingly be a problem, but not one that I fear to any great extent as in most cases it can be defeated with the help of common sense which itself is a rare commodity these days.

What's a good theft prevention device? (1)

EugeneK (50783) | about 8 years ago | (#15103207)

I was thinking of getting a security cable that on one end, would go into the laptop, and the other end would be a loop with a bolt, which would go through a single handcuff (cut the other one off with bolt cutters) and then put the handcuff around my wrist. Worse that can happen, they grab the laptop and jerk me along with it. There'll likely be some damage to the laptop in the ensuing melee, but hopefully just the visible handcuff attached to the laptop will be a deterrent.

What does WiFi have to do with any of this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15103213)

There are plenty of people who work in cafes on laptops who are not using wifi, so I don't see where there is any correlation between wifi and the (supposed) increase in the number of thefts.

In other news... (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | about 8 years ago | (#15103253)

... A shocking discovery concluded that:

the presence of cars increases car theft
the presence of tv sets increases tv set theft
the presence of jewelry increases jewelry
the presence of [valuable object] increases [valuable object] theft
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