How to track down a stolen gadget
Stolen phone? Lost laptop? Missing camera? New software and services can pinpoint your purloined tech.
(Page 2 of 2)
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Phones: Between satellite data, Wi-Fi triangulation, and cell-tower signals, mobile phones are one of the easiest devices to track down – if you have the right software.
Apple has a free Find My iPhone feature. The service, part of Apple's MobileMe, will pinpoint a lost or stolen iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch to within a few yards. The owner can send an alert that will pop up on the device's screen, such as a message that reads, "If found, please contact …" Apple can also remotely add password protection or erase the hard drive entirely.
Android phone users can download Lookout, a free app that locates lost phones, as well as back up contacts and install anti-malware protection. The company also has a $30-a-year premium service that lets you lock down or remotely wipe an Android device.
In March, a beta version of BlackBerry Protect opened up free tools to locate and erase handsets. Many of these features already came included in BlackBerry's enterprise packages.
Cameras: Most digital photographs come with detailed information hidden inside the code. These secret tags note the shutter speed, flash settings – and the serial number of the camera.
GadgetTrak.com/CameraSearch scours the Internet for images and logs every serial number it can find.
The new website has filed 3.5 million unique identifiers in less than a month. Enter your serial number and the free service will sniff out photos taken from that camera.
If GadgetTrak brings up images you don't recognize, it may have just ratted out a sneaky child who's borrowed your camera without asking – or identified the thief who's made off with your stolen dSLR.
Increasingly, modern cameras also record where an image was taken, providing extra evidence against a culprit.
GadgetTrak's Camera Search and similar site StolenCameraFinder.com are rather new services. They may not have indexed your photos yet. If a serial-number search comes up dry, try again in a few weeks or months.
[Editor's Note: The original version of this story called Stolen Camera Finder a "competitor" to Camera Search. In fact, GadgetTrak shares its data, loading what it finds into the SCF database.]