Thursday, August 9, 2012
Brooklyn man tracks stolen laptop using anti-theft software
A Brooklyn man who lost his $3,000 MacBook to a burglar used anti-crime software to track it down — but then watched helplessly as a smut lover used it to surf porn Web sites.
“I spent three weeks knowing where my computer was and couldn’t do anything about it,’’ said 27-year-old Bryan Neilon. “It was extremely frustrating.’’
Neilon, a supervisor for Hearst Digital Media, hacked into the computer and tracked it to 100 feet or so from its actual location.
He also learned more than he ever wanted to know about the user and what turned him on.
“He was using my computer to look at porn,” said Neilon.
“He was [also] looking up real estate in Buffalo and how to get a Bangladeshi passport,’’ Neilon said. “He was looking up someone’s school grades in Bangladesh.
“She was failing three classes,” he disclosed.
Neilon said the thief who stole his computer in November had climbed a fire escape and gotten into his apartment on Pacific Street in Crown Heights through a window.
The burglar also made off with guitars, credit cards, a passport and Social Security card.
Neilon replaced the computer.
But he forgot about the free anti-crime software he had installed on it until last month — when the company sent him an e-mail asking him to renew the subscription.
When he logged into the program, called Prey, it began sending him reports about activity on the computer, sometimes as often as every 10 minutes.
“The reports give you all kinds of info about what’s happening on the computer — current users logged in, screen shots, GPS stuff, Webcam photo, open programs, wireless info,” said Neilon.
Within minutes, he had pinpointed the machine’s location on Crescent Street, produced screen shots of the sites the user had been accessing, and even snapped a picture of the man.
“It was really unnerving that my Web cam was taking pictures of him and he’s looking at porn,” said Neilon.
He turned all the information over to cops in the 77th Precinct, but grew frustrated when police did not immediately recover the computer.
The camera showed the computer in an apartment, but there was no apartment building at that location.
“The software helps. It’s a huge help. [But] it’s not exact,” said a police source familiar with the case. “Part of the trouble was finding a good address.”
Last Friday, detectives located the right building, camped out in front of it and confronted the user — a construction worker — when he returned from work.
The man, whose name is being withheld by The Post because he was not charged with a crime, said he’d been given the computer by his 14-year-old nephew, who paid $500 for it on the street.
He gave back the computer, apologized and was not arrested.
Both he and the boy are now cooperating with an investigation to find the people selling stolen property, a source said.