IT expert tracks down stolen laptop

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The Independent Online

An IT expert managed to outsmart a burglar who stole his laptop during the riots, tracking him down through cyberspace.

Information security professional Greg Martin stayed at his girlfriend's house last week because of trouble near his own home but when he went back the following morning, he found his flat in West Kensington, London, had been broken into and his Macbook Pro laptop and other belongings taken.

But little did the culprit realise Mr Martin had installed a tracking device on the computer.

Writing on his blog, he said: "Police showed up, took a report and dusted for prints, performed typical forensics... One thing they did not expect was that I had installed the amazing open source tracking software from

"Once I flagged my laptop as missing within Prey, I waited eagerly for the first report to come in.

"Almost two weary days had gone by and I'm at dinner on a business trip in Luxembourg and I received an email which nearly knocked me out of my chair with excitement."

Mr Martin, who says he has previously worked for the FBI and Nasa, described on his blog how he then monitored the burglar surfing the internet, and was able to get his identity from Facebook.

"After two hours of watching him surf religious revelation videos, shopping for Mercedes A class on autotrader he finally popped onto facebook!"

He said the "treasure trove" of information included the man's name, school, address in west London, and information about his wireless internet.

"Of course I had pictures of him from the webcam on my Macbook as well as his Facebook page, now I just had to pass the info on to London Metro police and get to bed at a decent hour as I had to run an all-day meeting the following morning!

"The tip of the iceberg, now that all the details were collected, London Metro police could make their move!"

According to Mr Martin's blog, where he has also posted screen grabs of the man's face and Facebook page with some details obscured, he said that after he handed the details over, police raided the man's flat and recovered his computer.

A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said today an 18-year-old has been charged with handling stolen goods.

Soheil Khalilfar, 18, was bailed to appear before West London Magistrates' Court on Friday, she said.