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The Case of the Stolen Laptop
A video is going around that shows a UC Berkeley professor detailing the mess a student got into by stealing his laptop (Boing Boing links to various copies of the video). The student thought he was just going to be stealing a copy of an exam. What he didn't know was that he was also stealing industrial trade secrets, which will send various federal agencies searching for him. It's a great speech by the professor. The question is, how much of it is real, and how much of it is bluff?

The professor in the video is Jasper Rine. Google his name and you come up with all kinds of links between him and big biotechs. So when he says there are trade secrets on the laptop, I would believe him. I would also believe that the corporations won't be happy about having their info stolen.

But I'm not sure I'd agree with the professor's assertion that the thief WILL be found. When he mentions that the use of Windows triggered an alert in Redmond, that doesn't mean anything. I get that alert when I try to use Microsoft Word on my laptop and desktop at the same time. Microsoft isn't going to be tracking the thief down. He also mentions tracking a signal from a wireless receiver in the laptop. I suppose they could triangulate the data and come up with a location. Except that on a campus with tens of thousands of people living in close quarters, that might not be of much use if the laptop was used in a public space. He also mentions a partial image of the thief. But obviously the image isn't good enough to allow an easy identification, or they would have already got the guy.

If I were the thief, I wouldn't turn myself in (I wouldn't have stolen the laptop in the first place, but that's another matter entirely). Turning yourself in would mean certain punishment. I would just get rid of the laptop. The likelihood is that federal officers aren't going to spend that much time hunting it down, and if the laptop simply vanishes there's not much that can be done. It'll be interesting to see if there's ever any follow-up to this case.

And oops. I just noticed this was linked to in the forum also. I should have checked out what that 'World of Pain' link was about before I wrote this up. Oh well. I'm guilty of double posting, I guess.
Law/Police/Crime
Posted by The Curator on Thu Apr 21, 2005
With all that data on the laptop, why the assumption that it was stolen just for a preview of an exam? Yeah, exams are stolen all the time, but making away with the whole computer would guarantee that the exam would be rewritten (assuming the test was specific to just that one professor's course.) Perhaps the thief thought s/he could quickly copy the exam and replace the laptop before it was missed. Still it would seem that the data from the hundred million dollar study would be of greater value to a real thief than a final exam.

I agree with Alex that the prof is probably bluffing, if they had all that info they would have already nabbed the culprit. Of course, if the laptop were backed up, it might be in Jasper Rine's interest that who ever stole the PC be frightened enough to destroy the evidence, rather than risk it falling into the hands of a competitor.
Posted by andychrist  on  Fri Apr 22, 2005  at  11:19 AM
If i were the one who stole it i would disable the wireless internet, make an image of the hard drive then ditch the laptop somewhere, then sell the data to a competitior. This would be of course if i was a dishonest and imoral person.
Posted by Hawkeye  in  Minnesota  on  Sat Apr 23, 2005  at  11:14 AM
Yep, looks like Alex was completely correct, seems Rine was just bluffing. It would be ironic if his inflated claims of the value of the data on the laptop actually convinced the thief to hold on to it, even though the exam on it would now be worthless.

http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=22762
Posted by andychrist  on  Mon Apr 25, 2005  at  11:50 AM
>> He also mentions tracking a signal from a wireless receiver in the laptop.

No good. Wireless cards can be turned off and the signal only works to your wireless rounter in a very small range (like one house).

>> If i were the one who stole it i would disable the wireless internet, make an image of the hard drive then ditch the laptop somewhere, then sell the data to a competitior. This would be of course if i was a dishonest and imoral person.<<

Most companies would do the responsible thing and report you for attempting to offer the information. There have been cases like that.
Posted by Bill B.  on  Mon Apr 25, 2005  at  02:01 PM
This professor has an incredibly runny mouth and should be kicked in the teeth immediately. Does he really think that would scare the thief? WTF! The professor would be the one actually getting in trouble. The last people I heard of carrying hundred million dollar data on his own laptop in a public place are now in federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison. This was the dumbest bluff, EVAR!
Posted by pffft!  on  Mon May 30, 2005  at  09:12 AM
LOL, the Prof is a good bluffer. Firstly it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to track down one person using a wireless connection. There could be thousands on the same hub/server at any one time, secondly the only thing that I have ever heard of having a "transponder" is an airplane, it allows for identification of that plane, unless this computer has wings I doubt the thief should be getting very worried.
Posted by Enda  on  Fri Feb 24, 2006  at  08:20 AM
OK first off, Microsoft is only interested in duped copies of Windows, not your stolen data. Second, wireless devices to not connect via "transponders". They use a MAC address like every other network device.
Third, there is no way to track a wireless device to a specific point since the makeup of a wireless computer network is such that a wireles device can only connect to one access point at a time. You would therefor, only be able to track a connected device to within the communication radius of the afore mentioned wireless accesspoint.
Third, if anyone were serious about just getting the data off that laptop, they wouldn't bother keeping it. They would take the hard drive out, and copy the data off to another device.
Finaly, what was he doing with unsecured sensitive data on a laptop that he just leaves laying around?

This guy sounds like someone who is scared to death that he is gonna have to explain to his boss why he lost the company data. He also sounds like somone who doesn't know what the hell he is talking aobut either.

Hey professor......DOH!
Posted by Fletch  in  Houston, TX  on  Tue Nov 14, 2006  at  05:14 PM
Half of what that professor said is bullshit.

most wireless access point do not keep records.

What the hell is he talking about "transponder"
No laptop I ever worked on has transponders. He admitted that he pirated windows. and unless the theif ran windows updates or reactivated windows xp, microsoft wouldnt know.

There is no way the professor could have known if a theif copied data to a USB key or something.

If he did have data on it that was so important why would he keep it on a laptop that was left laying around.
Posted by Rattler5150  on  Sat Dec 16, 2006  at  02:23 PM
I just caught the tail end of this video.

With the correct forensics tools, you could establish if the data had been comprimised through being viewed or copied.

Windows XP machines will continue broadcasting previous wireless access points they've connected to.

The professor looks very nervous and almost immediatly crosses his arms as he launches into all the "ways" they can find the thief which leads me to think he would "like" all those agencies to be right behind him but I doubt it.

Finally, the professor should have encrypted the data using a tool like TrueCrypt which allows you to encrypt partitions or portions of one. Very hand for flash drives!
Posted by edeena  on  Mon Mar 19, 2007  at  04:34 AM
Very interesting case, criminals should go to jail!
Posted by Laptoper  on  Tue Apr 22, 2008  at  11:53 PM
There are many ways to hide your laptop. Change the MAC and delete all network connections.
Posted by Jolin  on  Sat Jul 19, 2008  at  05:06 AM
The last people I heard of carrying hundred million dollar data on his own laptop in a public place are now in federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison
Posted by cheap computers canada  on  Fri Sep 18, 2009  at  01:24 PM
Thanks a lot for this article and I hope many would also stumble on this.
Posted by Download XP Drivers  in  manila  on  Thu Feb 11, 2010  at  12:01 PM
I just caught the tail end of this video.

With the correct forensics tools, you could establish if the data had been comprimised through being viewed or copied.
Posted by laptop hp  on  Wed May 19, 2010  at  10:33 PM
Thanks for this article!!!
I get that alert when I try to use Microsoft Word on my laptop and desktop at the same time. Microsoft isn't going to be tracking the thief down. He also mentions tracking a signal from a wireless receiver in the laptop. I suppose they could triangulate the data and come up with a location.
I hope many would also stumble in this data..
Thanks for sharing...
Posted by George@IDE Drivers  in  Manila  on  Fri Jun 04, 2010  at  09:30 AM
Thanks for this article. This content give me more info. Thanks again to you for this content.
Posted by Green Pole  in  5999 West 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90025, USA  on  Thu Feb 17, 2011  at  09:04 AM
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