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Looted laptop uses tracking software to trace thief

Looters picked the wrong man when they stole a MacBook Pro laptop from a hacker, who used gadget-tracking software to identify the thief.

Looters picked the wrong man when they half-inched a MacBook Pro laptop and other items from a flat in West Kensington. The aggrieved theftee used gadget-tracking software to identify the thief, and has been reunited with his laptop.

Turns out the criminal mastermind had stolen the computer from an information security professional claiming experience at NASA and the FBI. On the scale of criminal miscalculation, that's up there with underestimating the ship's cook.

29-year-old Texan Greg Martin had installed gadget-tracking Prey software on the laptop. The hapless tea-leaf turned on the stolen laptop and an email was fired off to Martin in his hotel in Luxembourg, where he grabbed a pack of smokes and watched the miscreant surfing the Web -- presumably while muttering things like "I have you now!"

Two hours of religious videos and Mercedes-shopping later, the suspected thief logged into Facebook and Martin grabbed a screen capture that revealed the ne'er-do-well's identity. Now armed with the suspect's name, address and plenty of webcam photos, Martin shopped him to the police.

The 18-year-old suspect has now been charged with handling stolen goods and will appear before magistrates on Friday.

The case echoes the story of Joshua Kaufman, a San Francisco programmer who also got his laptop back thanks to tracking software. His MacBook was stolen in March, so he started a blog of screenshots of the offender called This Guy Has My MacBook, using tracking app Hidden. Eventually police got on the case, arrested the thief and retrieved the computer.

Other gadget-tracking software includes LocateMyLaptop, GadgetTrak, LoJack for Laptops or Apple's own Find My Mac, which is also available for the iPad and iPhone.

Meanwhile police are calling for people to report crime on Facebook. Lothian and Borders Police have launched Made From Crime on the social network, yet another use of the Web and social media that show how out of touch some politicians are when they call for digital bans.