Identity Hi-Jacking: On and Offline

People live their lives through their laptops and cell phones. It is the repository of memories and aspirations and for a sizeable number of individuals, a computer is their only link to the world. It is not unusual for someone to consider their computers as their most prized possession. When that prized possession gets lost or stolen, the burglar knows that the real value of the laptop is not the price of the laptop but something else buried in the computer’s hard drive.

The real value of our phones and computers lies in the information it contains, much so that anybody can assume another identity based on the facts that are stored in the computer’s hard drive. Identity theft is very much a fact of life nowadays and is a consequence of our ever increasing reliance on information.

Just recently, Victoria Richardson had the painful experience of seeing her life hijacked by the thief who happened to know how to use Facebook. She narrated the humiliation she experienced after finding out the burglar was updating her Facebook page using, what he claimed, his “new laptop”. Although the laptop contained other valuable information, Victoria just knew that the thief was relishing his power over her and was using her Facebook in a way that was obvious to everyone that it was not her who was updating the personal website.

The thief shouldn’t be so brash though. It is possible to track down any computer based on the IP address where the laptop was connected to. If he is not careful where gets his wireless connection, he might be traced to his residence or an office building.

There are ways to thwart computer thieves. A very effective technique is to use log-in and sceensaver passwords. For thieves that are not well versed in IT, this could be enough to stop him from digging information saved in the hard disk. For him, it would be faster and easier to just simply reformat the hard disk and install whatever software he wants.

LoJack for laptops may help authorities recover stolen computer equipment. LoJack is a utility that contacts a web page to log-in its location (via IP addresses) and to check whether it has been stolen.  The longer the thief uses the machine, the greater the chances of LoJack’s success in contacting a web page to announce its current location.

The open source Adeona is another software that works similarly with LoJack. Aside from reporting its location via IP, a picture of whoever is in front of the monitor can be taken via the laptop’s web cam and sent over the internet to the owner of the computer.

The tracking software mentioned previously are meant to stop the common thief who is not IT savvy. Knowledgeable thieves can always uninstall the software or use the computer in public places such as coffee shops or any place with free WiFi.

If you are unfortunate to have lost your laptop to thieve but wise enough to have made a backup of your data, then all you have really lost was just a piece of hardware that can be easily replaced – assuming that your pockets can afford it.

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