SEATTLE--Imagine your laptop is stolen.
Set aside for a second the likelihood that if it was you wouldn't be able to read this story and think instead about how you might go about tracking it down.
There are existing services, such as LoJack, that are designed to help find purloined laptops by identifying the IP addresses where they are subsequently used and through other assorted methods.
But according to a team of computer scientists at the University of Washington, the price you pay for utilizing such services is a loss of privacy--as well as a reliance on a corporate third party to take care of you.
That's why the team has come up with its own alternative, which it is calling Adeona, the name for the Roman goddess of safe returns.
The idea behind Adeona, according to Tadayoshi Kohno and Gabriel Maganis, who gave a talk about the project at the Gnomedex conference here Saturday, is to give people a method for safeguarding their laptops that relies neither on proprietary commercial software nor the centralized servers of the companies that provide such software.
Adeona, they said, is the world's first free, open-source laptop-tracking system, and one that can be installed by users themselves, and which doesn't require a corporate intermediary.
The team is also developing a version of its software for iPhones, though it isn't ready for public use yet.
To Kohno, the danger associated with commercial laptop-tracking services is that it's never possible to know for sure that someone at a company that makes such software wouldn't exploit the company's possession of your personal information--and access to what's on your laptop--for personal gain. Or, he said, that information could be subpoenaed in court cases. … Read more