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Wifi and Laptops Adds Up To Theft 329

Ant writes to mention an SFGate article about the increase in laptop theft in the world of ubiquitous wifi. From the article: "San Francisco police statistics show a disturbing trend. Just 18 laptop computer robberies were logged in 2004, but the figure jumped to 48 last year. There were 18 as of the end of March, a pace that could surpass 70 crimes this year. 'It's a changing culture, and crime is following it'"
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Wifi and Laptops Adds Up To Theft

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  • by SlashdotOgre ( 739181 ) on Monday April 10, 2006 @09:16PM (#15102824) Journal
    As laptops become more common, an increase in the number stolen ought to be expected. I didn't find it in the article, but an important number to note would be the percentage increase in laptop sales over the same period (2004-2005).
  • by 8127972 ( 73495 ) on Monday April 10, 2006 @09:20PM (#15102846)
    While it is unfortunate that one person got stabbed for their laptop, I have to wonder if this is somehow being blown somewhat out of proportion. Yes there has been an increase in this sort of crime (at least in the SF area), but how long before Starbucks gets cameras and the like to make these environments less appealing to thieves? My guess is that it won't take long. After all, the laptop user is a user who is willing to pay for their coffee, which means that they want to keep that cash rolling in.
  • by frdmfghtr ( 603968 ) on Monday April 10, 2006 @09:26PM (#15102880)
    TFA points out that people congregate with laptops at hotspots. This is true. Thiefs know they can find one or many at such a place.

    Makes sense...that's one premise behind the convoy antisubmarine tactic in WWII. By concentrating the supply ships in a smaller area, you knew (roughly) where the submarines had to be in order to attack.

    By concentrating the wireless laptops in a smaller area, thieves know where to go to steal them. Same idea, but working in favor of the thieves.
  • A simple precaution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ortholattice ( 175065 ) on Monday April 10, 2006 @09:29PM (#15102898)
    I have my browser home page (in both Mozilla and IE) set to a web page on my server that no one else knows about. Unsophisticated thieves, when they get home or to their fence's place, will probably try it out to make sure it works, before reinstalling the OS or whatever (if they're even that competent). One of the first things they'll typically do is fire up the browser. Then their IP is captured in my server's web log.

    I'm not saying this is the only precaution one should take, or that it's guaranteed to work. But it's easy to do and increases the likelihood that some evidence will be captured. It depends on the stupidity of the thief, and those kinds of people often just aren't that smart.

  • by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Monday April 10, 2006 @09:44PM (#15102966) Homepage
    I'd like to see the creation of a publicly accessable stolen property registry, to make it harder for thieves to sell their loot. Auction sites, like eBay, could require sellers to list the serial numbers, if any, of all items that they are selling.
  • Re:FUD (Score:1, Interesting)

    by znu ( 31198 ) <> on Monday April 10, 2006 @10:02PM (#15103043)
    Well, there is one important difference. 15 years ago, robbing a regular middle-class guy would get you maybe $30-60 in cash and a $100 watch. These days, you have every other college student or white collar employee carrying around a $400 cell phone, a $300 music player, and possibly a $1500 computer. And they're using all of this stuff in public. This makes mugging people a lot more profitable than it used to be.

    Of course, presumably burglary is now less profitable than it used to be, since people carry more of their expensive stuff around with them instead of leaving it unattended at home when they go out.
  • by shawb ( 16347 ) on Monday April 10, 2006 @10:15PM (#15103099)
    With iPods, I believe the "hide in the pocket" potentiral works more for the thief than the potential victims. People listening to their iPod usually have the signature white headphones (although some companies are coming out with copycat white earbuds because people want the look without necesarilly having an iPod) so thieves know pretty much who has one. The thief, once he has the iPod, can hid it in HIS pocket untill he knows he made a clean getaway. If this was a bulky laptop or something, it would be easier to yell "stop the thief with the laptio."

    Although I suppose not being in a pocket does allow for some crimes of opportunity... setting the laptop down unguarded for just a minute while the owner goes to the bathroom, gets another cup of coffee, goes outside for a cigarette or... whatever... an iPod would go with the owner.
  • by EvanED ( 569694 ) <evaned@gmail. c o m> on Monday April 10, 2006 @10:21PM (#15103137)
    Why not just add a program to the startup sequence that does it?

    I've actually thought about doing something like what you suggest but have been repulsed by the notion of not having a password required for sign-on.

    Ah well, I don't have a laptop anyway (yet -- I plan on getting a tablet next winter) so it doesn't really matter.
  • 40? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ethan Allison ( 904983 ) <> on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @12:11AM (#15103582) Homepage
    40 people died in the time it took me to log in and post this. More were born, probably. Think about it. Not big in the scheme of things.
  • by pruss ( 246395 ) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @12:44AM (#15103714) Homepage
    This isn't quite as secure, but I run a VNC server together with dynDNS on this laptop, so if it gets stolen and connected to the internet, I should at least be able to login and watch what's going on if they don't reformat the drive.

"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye