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Dom's laptop is in Iran.
April 11, 2013 10:19 AM   Subscribe

It's still there. A tale of loss.
posted by colie (49 comments total)

 
Is it possible she didn't know the laptop was stolen?
posted by sweetkid at 10:25 AM on April 11, 2013


Posting laptop camera pictures of people taken without their knowledge in their homes is pretty sketchy. There is no real reason to think the people pictured are the same people who stole the laptop. Even if they are, I don't think this is a great thing to do.
posted by enn at 10:25 AM on April 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's pretty awful that he's posted pictures of the laptop's current owners. Odds are they're not the thieves, and it's very likely that they're unaware the laptop was stolen in the first place.

I've had nice things stolen too, and it's infuriating to be able to pinpoint your stolen stuff's location while the police do nothing, but shame on you, Dom.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:27 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


(I don't know anything about the people - personally I wouldn't have put these pics online, and I'd assume the people in them weren't involved in the theft. Just thought it was interesting.)
posted by colie at 10:28 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


As they're pointing out on Hacker News, the story is obvious link bait, and has a single outgoing link to the recovery software in use, Hidden App. In all probability this is just (reasonably clever) marketing.
posted by fatbird at 10:29 AM on April 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


omg...soooo creepy. How mortifying for these people, to be broadcast on this internet in this way. And presumably Dom is able to see loads of other stuff about where she goes online, what she stores on the laptop, where she takes it. And he creates this weird little narrative about her and what she does based on the results of his spying?

There's so much about this story that doesn't seem right to me. At all.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:31 AM on April 11, 2013


oh, linkbait. Thank god. Can we just close this now and forget it ever happened?
posted by iamkimiam at 10:32 AM on April 11, 2013


It's pretty awful that he's posted pictures of the laptop's current owners. Odds are they're not the thieves, and it's very likely that they're unaware the laptop was stolen in the first place.

They are probably not the thieves, but they know it's stolen. Most people who buy fenced shit know it's stolen, whether they admit it to themselves or not. It wasn't even wiped properly. If it's real, he's totally justified.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:33 AM on April 11, 2013 [18 favorites]


Hey, buyer beware. If you come into the possession of stolen property, you're a criminal.
posted by brand-gnu at 10:33 AM on April 11, 2013


Not Without My Computer, the unexpected sequel starring Sally Field as Dom will be out in theaters in 2015.

(and probably be just as ethnically problematic as the original)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:35 AM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


(I posted this and I am not marketing anything - saw the link on Twitter, know of the person, and it's real.)
posted by colie at 10:36 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh, crap is Hidden not a real thing? 'Cause it looked good and I just signed up. Seriously.

Crap.
posted by RakDaddy at 10:38 AM on April 11, 2013


Ceiling cat is watching you "operate your laptop."
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:40 AM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


They are probably not the thieves, but they know it's stolen. Most people who buy fenced shit know it's stolen, whether they admit it to themselves or not. It wasn't even wiped properly. If it's real, he's totally justified.

Most people who buy goods manufactured with sweatshop or slave labor or child labor know that too, whether they admit it to themselves or not.

This is a great rationalization! It lets you do just about anything to anyone! Maybe now I can finally build that botnet I've always wanted to have, messing around with Tor and people who are intentionally allowing you to use their bandwidth anonymously is such a pain in the butt...
posted by XMLicious at 10:46 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


If someone stole my laptop and I was constantly getting pictures of the people who now have it, I'd do this too.
posted by Melismata at 10:53 AM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Most people who buy goods manufactured with sweatshop or slave labor or child labor know that too, whether they admit it to themselves or not.

Being a Western consumer is the moral equivalent of buying stuff from a shady dude in an alley? The rainbow that you're hugging is giving off some potent fumes.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:56 AM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hidden's a real thing. I had my laptop taken (also from a flat in London) a few years ago. I'd seen Hidden and not bothered to install it. I have now fixed this and occasionally test it (which is easy to do.) It's a superb and simple piece of software, I have to say.

(I'm not an astroturfer.)

(As far as I know, anyway.)

posted by secretdark at 10:57 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


buying stuff from a shady dude in an alley

how do you know this happened?
posted by sweetkid at 10:58 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, anyone who sells you a laptop that hasn't been "wiped" is a thief. You should totally make sure that it's back to factory spec or else people can spy on you from half a world away and it's all your fault.

Plus, of course, they might have some really interesting porn still on there.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:02 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe it was a gift. Maybe they don't know it was stolen. Maybe one of them does. If these people are innocent victims of Internet shaming, it's on the thief, not Dom. Or not.
posted by Chuffy at 11:06 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


how do you know this happened?

That's a metaphor for "clearly stolen." I was responding to a statement which insinuated that the provenance of the goods one buys are universally tainted, and therefore one should not be held accountable for buying stolen goods.

That the goods were definitely stolen was implicit in the analogy I was responding to, not in the case of the laptop in question. I was making no such assertion, even though I feel that generally those that receive stolen goods are ignorant only through their own inclinations.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:09 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think I would not do this mostly because they're in Iran, and I harbor a suspicion that Iran is the sort of place where things well out of proportion to possessing a stolen laptop might happen to people as a result of posting photos from inside their home.
posted by brennen at 11:12 AM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


brennen: I think I would not do this mostly because they're in Iran, and I harbor a suspicion that Iran is the sort of place where things well out of proportion to possessing a stolen laptop might happen to people as a result of posting photos from inside their home.

You'd think that would help to get it back, though. Send them an email: "Hi! You have my stolen laptop. I have your names, address, and pictures. I'll assume you weren't the ones who stole it, but you still have to send it back or I'll inform your local law enforcement." Rent a PO box that can receive packages for a month and give them that address, and maybe have the local police check out the box before you open it.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:55 AM on April 11, 2013


You wouldn't download a laptop, would you?
posted by blue_beetle at 11:59 AM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


How dare those theiving women expose their arms like that, and in front of a man too! Have they no shame?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:05 PM on April 11, 2013


How dare those theiving women expose their arms like that, and in front of a man too! Have they no shame?

This is precisely the only reason I wouldn't do this. Possessing stolen property does not equate to what could happen if someone gets a wild religious hair about the women involved.

Other than that, I find it hard to sympathize with the "they might be innocent" thing. I mean, if it were people in the U.S., I'd do this just to see if anyone recognized them so I could get my stuff back.
posted by Malice at 12:12 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


yea, but it's not in the same country, and definitely has an air of "look at these assholes about it."
posted by sweetkid at 12:14 PM on April 11, 2013


The reactions of some Mefites never fail to astonish and fascinate me.

On April 2 of this year, our apartment was burglarized. My wife and I lost a laptop, two iPods, a couple of cameras, and our sense of safety in our own home.

Let's just say I'm less than overwhelmingly sympathetic to the people who had their pictures taken with a stolen laptop.
posted by KHAAAN! at 12:31 PM on April 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


I tend to agree with brennen, though it's hard to say what the official Iranian response might be to this. Will they congratulate the family for their victory over the West, or clap them in irons as unwitting spies?
posted by blacksmithtb at 12:53 PM on April 11, 2013


Most people who buy goods manufactured with sweatshop or slave labor or child labor know that too, whether they admit it to themselves or not...Maybe now I can finally build that botnet

If you're cranky about people posting pictures of other people without their knowledge (even if it is using their camera on their laptop that they actually own), you can just say that without having to underpants gnome to botnets via child abuse.

If I bought a stolen laptop and somebody posted modest, eye-barred pictures of me with a Google map zoomed out to the whole country with a red dot on Canberra, I'd be mortified. Not because that person was posting my picture, but because I had their stolen laptop.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:57 PM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


colie: "(I posted this and I am not marketing anything - saw the link on Twitter, know of the person, and it's real.)"

Other post-theft applications are available.

I use Prey myself.
posted by Auz at 2:16 PM on April 11, 2013


What I'm surprised to see missing on the hidden app site's feature list or faq is the ability to remotely wipe the machine of sensitive data. Actually all I'd really want is an ssh tunnel to get set up once it gets back online. Oh the fun that would be. I'd feel a bit sorry for the person possessing it if they bought it in good faith, but that's impossible to know and I'd rather the thing be worthless so maybe they'll be more careful about who they buy from if that's the case.

And here's something I just noticed, I had installed prey a while back and pretty much forgot about it until the thought occured to me to check and see if it had any of those features and the similarities of the features list and descriptions is a little uncanny. Prey gets extra points from me for more features, slightly better graphics, and the being able to serve the words "silent but deadly" to me with a straight face.
posted by mcrandello at 2:30 PM on April 11, 2013


better yet, wouldn't it be better if the hidden app file just locked all other files on the device and just display a message in multiple languages: "hi, this laptop is stolen. please return it to xxx"
posted by bitteroldman at 2:52 PM on April 11, 2013


Why not shorten the message to "Please reformat this device so this tracking software no longer works"?
posted by yerfatma at 2:55 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


good point. i'm so naive.
well, can the touchpad be diabled then, so all that works is the power button?

or maybe a combination of both, controllable remotely - pics and location first, followed by message?

what's the point of the software effective recovery or spying? if it's effective recovery, then more features to that end are required. if it's spying using "effective recovery" as their selling point, then the makers should be called out on that.
posted by bitteroldman at 3:05 PM on April 11, 2013


bitteroldman: "well, can the touchpad be diabled then, so all that works is the power button?"

"This device has been remotely disabled. Now would be a great time to dispose of the evidence."

The reason all of the recovery apps silently spy on the user is that there are only three ways you are getting the device back; confronting the thief directly, sending the police, or extorting them into returning it with legal threats. In any of these cases, you don't want the thief to know ahead of time; they'll just throw the thing into a ditch and then claim ignorance.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:09 PM on April 11, 2013


If it's a case of you just left it on the table at a restaurant or noticed a loose zipper on your backpack something like "cash reward for the return of this lost device to ${NAME}${ADDRESS} no questions asked" maybe could help recover the device if its a case of theft-by-finding.

Also HOLY SHIT it just occurred to me that there's probably a significant number of installations of this software solely for the purpose of spying on a spouse/SO or child.
posted by mcrandello at 3:28 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


blue_beetle: "You wouldn't download a laptop, would you?"

No, but I WOULD shoot a policeman, take his hat, go to the bathroom in the hat, send the hat to his grieving widow, then steal it back again.
posted by Samizdata at 3:50 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, Prey ain't bad either. It is even open sourced.
posted by Samizdata at 3:52 PM on April 11, 2013


I'm just getting a box that says "Enter password". What (probably super obvious) thing am I missing?
posted by donnagirl at 4:35 PM on April 11, 2013


I think it got locked recently, because I'm getting the same thing.
posted by spiderskull at 4:59 PM on April 11, 2013


Yeah, I thought the "enter password" was a clever joke, but "password" "laptop" and "fuckoff" all didn't work, so I'm guessing lockdown.
posted by zinful at 7:14 PM on April 11, 2013


If you're cranky about people posting pictures of other people without their knowledge (even if it is using their camera on their laptop that they actually own), you can just say that without having to underpants gnome to botnets via child abuse.

How about we just don't do any underpants gnoming at all with the pretense that frustration over a laptop being stolen justifies via guilt by association being casual about broadcasting surveillance of a person quite possibly completely uninvolved in the crime you want to exact vengeance for?

I'm sure the person posting pictures would say they totally didn't mean for it to happen if some sort of Tyler Clementi thing occurred or the sorts of Iranian-regime-related consequences people are talking about but "you should know more about buying used computers" is not any justification for unnecessarily taking liberties with some stranger's security and privacy that way.
posted by XMLicious at 7:24 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I dunno. Since the computer was not formatted, it had to have been blatantly obvious to whomever is using it that it was some random computer from overseas, not something that should have been for sale in Iran. And like some others have stated above, most people who buy stolen property know it's shady and just don't care. So, while there's a tiny chance they are nice people who wouldn't buy a stolen laptop, I think it's much more likely they're complicit at best and responsible for stealing it at worst.

And as far as the Iranian government goes, I doubt they're going to get too bent out of shape about someone receiving stolen property from overseas. And if they do? Well.... they did actually do that.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:56 PM on April 11, 2013


And back up with an explanation. Alrighty, post, live again!
posted by cortex at 8:30 AM on April 12, 2013


Fascinating outcome. Hope there's a lesson learned here, somewhere.
posted by Melismata at 8:36 AM on April 12, 2013


Yeah, I'd wanted to say - if it really were unambiguous that a non-formatted computer from overseas is stolen I'd agree about not giving a crap about anyone who ends up with it (though accidentally posting a picture of someone doing something that you don't know is illegal or dangerous in Iran seems like a possibility, as people pointed out above), it's just that I can imagine lots of ways a computer could end up getting sold legitimately without having been wiped.

The overworked IT guy at one of my jobs just had stacks of old laptops from all the employees that he probably never got around to wiping. And even when a company cares about data security it could quite possibly go out of business fast enough so that nobody gets to do the formatting before all of its assets get split up and sold off. Or, I know people with home computers that both don't keep anything they'd consider sensitive on and wouldn't even really understand the concerns involved in formatting a hard drive instead of just deleting files. And I'd imagine that computers coming from those sorts of situations may show up for sale even more frequently in a place like Iran that has been under all sorts of economic sanctions for years and years.
posted by XMLicious at 9:10 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


the apology by Dom was well done. And the family even offered to return it. Interesting outcome all around.
Mashable article on the story.
posted by sweetkid at 1:27 PM on April 12, 2013


The innocent new owners of my laptop have been in touch and are mortified about the story and are keen to return the laptop.

Now will you believe my time-travelling self from the future keeps popping in to annoy me?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:06 AM on April 13, 2013


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