Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Adeona - A Free Open Source Way of Tracking your Laptop

First of all, thanks to my Twitter bud Canine for the heads-up on this. He attended Gnomedex over the weekend and sent me the info.

Adeona is a tracking system for getting back a laptop that has been stolen. The idea is that a stolen laptop (or desktop for that matter) sends info on its location whenever it is connected to the Internet. This allows the rightful owner to locate their stolen property and notify the authorities.

There are commercial products that can be purchased and used for this, but they have one drawback. They report their location at all times. What this means for the rightful owner is that no matter where you are, your laptop is revealing your location even though it hasn't been lost or stolen. It all boils down to privacy. From the Adeona website:

Why Adeona?

With the growing ubiquity of, and user reliance on, mobile computing devices (laptops, PDAs, smart phones, etc.), loss or theft of a device is increasingly likely, disruptive, and costly. Internet-based tracking systems provide a method for mitigating this risk. These tracking systems send, over the Internet, updates regarding the current location of the device to a remotely administered repository. If the device is lost or stolen, but maintains Internet connectivity and unmodified software, the tracking system can keep tabs on the current whereabouts of the device. This data could prove invaluable when the appropriate authorities attempt to recover the device.

Unfortunately, with current proprietary tracking systems users sacrifice location privacy. Indeed, even while the device is still in the rightful owner's possession, the tracking system is keeping tabs on the locations it (and its owner) visit. Even worse, with some commercial products, even outsiders (parties not affiliated with the tracking provider) can "piggy-back" on the tracking system's Internet traffic to uncover a mobile device user's private information and/or locations visited.

Adeona has three main properties:

  • Private: Adeona uses state-of-the-art cryptographic mechanisms to ensure that the owner is the only party that can use the system to reveal the locations visited by a device.
  • Reliable: Adeona uses a community-based remote storage facility, ensuring retrievability of recent location updates.
  • Open source and free: Adeona's software is licensed under GPLv2. While your locations are secret, the tracking system's design is not.
The Mac OS X version also has an option to capture pictures of the laptop user or thief using the built-in iSight camera and the freeware tool isightcapture. Like your location information, these images are privacy-protected so that only the laptop owner (or an agent of the owner's choosing) can access them.

More info can be obtained from the website.

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