Fresh Thinking



GadgetTrak: The Future of Tech Crime Fighting

December 21, 2010

Trevor Essmeier

By Trevor Essmeier

Preparing to send some emails while relaxing at your favorite café, you return to your seat with a delicious hot cup of joe. A cup that splatters all over the floor as you realize your laptop has been stolen. All of your work files, family photos, contacts, banking account information, your deepest most personal data whisked away inside that silver box. Helpless standing beside an empty café table, your security is now completely at the mercy of a total stranger.

Terrified? You should be. According to the FBI, 1 in 10 laptops bought in the US will be stolen during their first year of ownership, leaving you with a mere 3% chance of recovering your precious device. This is a tremendous problem in today’s world of mobile devices and accelerated data collecting technologies.

But for every problem there must be a solution. This is why we proudly present our Fresh Innovator Award to GadgetTrak.

GadgetTrak is a revolutionary new program that tracks the exact location of your stolen mobile device and can even determine what the robber looks like. Police then use this information to quickly and effectively retrieve your device and apprehend the suspect. The response has been huge. The GadgetTrak software has already garnered tons of success stories, earning the product a multitude of positive news coverage. To learn more, we caught up with GadgetTrak inventor Ken Westin of Portland, OR.

Ken Westin, founder and CEO of GadgetTrak

FRESH: How do you get the software?

KEN: You first download the software onto your mobile device or computer, but since the GadgetTrak console is web-based, you can track your devices on your iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, BlackBerry or Android — anything with a web browser

FRESH: So how does it work?

KEN: Our software works by the end user activating tracking, the next time the laptop connects it will activate tracking, the software will get location using nearby wi-fi networks with about 10 meters of accuracy, it then captures an image using the built-in web camera and then emails this data to the end user.

For mobile phones the software is activated either by SMS or push notifications depending on the device, in addition to tracking the mobile software also backs up data and allows the end user to remotely wipe data.

FRESH: Where are laptops most commonly stolen?

KEN: (1) Airports (2) Cars (3) Offices – burglary, casual theft, or employee theft (4) Homes

FRESH: How common are stolen laptops and mobile devises?

KEN: Pretty common, actually around 12,000 laptops are reported [stolen] in U.S. airports every week. Mobile phone theft stats have not been measured yet, but it is higher than laptop theft given their size and fact they are always mobile.

FRESH: How did you come up with the idea for GadgetTrack?

KEN: I was writing proof of concept viruses and trojans for a security firm and found a way to apply the same technology to help recover stolen devices.

What the user sees during theft

FRESH: Have there been any GadgetTrack success stories?

KEN: The headquarters of a prominent start-up in San Francisco was broken into, seven laptops were stolen from the premises. All of these laptops had security cables attached, however they were quickly and easily cut and the laptops taken. On one of these laptops an employee had installed GadgetTrak’s laptop security software. The device owner activated tracking for the device and contacted GadgetTrak. Within a few hours the device was connected to the Internet, the location of the thief as well as a photo of him was taken and emailed to the device owner as well as the Flickr account they had setup.

To see more stories click here.

FRESH: What does the future hold for technology device security?

KEN: It is going to become a lot more important, as our devices get smaller and have higher data capacities devices and the data they hold will become increasingly targeted for theft.

Conclusion: You don’t need a cape to be a super hero. Sitting from his Portland office, Ken Westin has caught countless thieves and heroically returned stolen goods, bringing justice to people all over the world. Helping citizens while seemingly being everywhere at once used to be a job for Superman. However, Ken Westin is real, which is why we award him with Fresh’s Innovator Award.

Trevor Essmeier

Trevor Essmeier

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