Adeona Protects Against Casual Laptop Thieves

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 15, 2008

As has been discussed on our sister blog Web Worker Daily, laptop theft is a big problem these days, especially for business travelers. There are commercial applications, such as Absolute Software's Computrace, that try to offer a way to track down stolen laptops. Now a team of academic researchers has released Adeona, a free, open-source package that offers similar protection.

The idea behind Adeona is fairly simple. At random intervals - around 30 minutes apart - the hidden Adeona software wakes up, looks around, and sends some information out of your laptop over its current internet connection. The information includes IP address, hotspot name, nearby routers and (if you're on a Mac) a photo taken with the built-in iSight camera. In the lands of law enforcement, this may well be enough information to track down the machine.

Adeona sends this stuff off to some publicly-accessible OpenDHT servers. This gives them a distributed, open source, independent storage location. The uploaded information is encrypted before sending so that no man-in-the-middle attack can locate your laptop; you need to know information from your own installation to track it down.

Is it a perfect system? Not really; there's no such thing. A sophisticated thief could always wipe the hard drive, or never connect your laptop back to the internet. But the average casual airport or dorm room robber isn't likely to be that smart. Considering that the cost is the installation of a free software package and the use of a trivial amount of bandwidth, it's hard to see how installing Adeona could hurt, and if you get unlucky, it could well help.