GadgetTrak Blog

CameraTrace Recovers Stolen Camera & Wedding Photos After Hotel Theft
Wednesday, February 29, 2012

David Hoskerman and his family went to Florida for a wedding, staying at the high end Doral Country Club a well known stop on the PGA tour. David borrowed his father-in-law’s Nikon D80 and lenses ( valued at $5K ) to take photos at the wedding for the couple. David then left the camera in his room after the wedding as they enjoyed their remaing time in Florida. Then the unthinkable happened, a series of rooms were broken into in the hotel including David’s and the camera was stolen from. Several other rooms were also hit with laptops and other equipment taken with no evidence left behind, the police were at a dead end.

David found and contacted us, he uploaded several photos and we was able to extract valuable information assisting the detective working on the case to track the stolen camera down on Craigslist. The police setup a sting operation and recovered the camera at a McDonalds, along with other stolen property from the hotel. Not only did David get his camera back, but the wedding photos were still on the camera. GadgetTrak not only helped recover a stolen camera, but a lot of other stolen property and more importantly priceless memories of a couple’s special day.

Doral police were able to recover the camera as well as lenses and memory card with priceless photos.

GadgetTrak Recovers Phone Stolen From Wireless Store In 2 Hours
Monday, February 20, 2012

Yesterday a Sprint store in Grants Pass, Oregon had a display Samsung Epic 4G phone stolen. The device was removed from the secure cradle with a special tool, the surveillance video showed a suspect who had hit their store before, but this time they had another weapon in their arsenal. GadgetTrak Mobile Security is installed on all of the store’s demo units.

Immediately after staff realized the phone was stolen they activated GadgetTrak before they called police. Once activated we tracked the perpetrator to an Applebees nearby. The police moved in, once they pulled into the Applebees parking lot, the perpetrator ran leaving the newly purloined phone behind.

The police are still investigating the theft and now know who the thief is. The entire recovery took less than 2 hours from theft to recovery thanks to GadgetTrak Mobile Security, which is a new record for us. The Sprint store was able to act quickly, enabling tracking themselves and were able to provide the GPS coordinates to police over the phone as they changed.

The fact that GadgetTrak provides actionable intelligence right when the crime takes place has proven to be a significant factor in the recovery process. We are able to provide police with information immediately without requiring search warrants, or subpoena’s which in this case would have caused significant delay with today being President’s Day the process would not have started until tomorrow after which the phone would be long gone.

How GadgetTrak Handles Contact & Photo Backups
Wednesday, February 8, 2012

It was recently discovery that social media startup Path has been uploading contact information to their servers without its users’ consent. The discovery was by Arun Thampi using Aldo Cortesi’s excellent mitmproxy tool which allows researchers to intercept data transmitted by apps to remote servers even if being sent via SSL. This discovery has led to quite an outrage online, as users were not told their address books were being uploaded to Path’s servers. To make matters worse if your contact information is on your friend’s phone your contact details including phone number are now sitting on Path’s servers. The information was not encrypted and there is no word yet how the information was being protected on the servers.

Mobile privacy is something that we hear at GadgetTrak anticipated and worried about early on. GadgetTrak Mobile Security uploads your photos and contacts to our servers, however we encrypt the data on your device with a privacy key that you choose with AES 246 bit encryption before data is transmitted over a secure connection. This model of backup is often referred to as “host proof” backup where not even we have access to our customer’s data. For example if we were subpoenaed for back up data by a government agency all we could provide is an encrypted blob, only our customer has the key to decrypt the data.

This approach helps ensure the privacy of our customers on several levels, first by not even allowing any employees access to the data. This ensures that your data is not used for any other purposes and ensures your data is kept private from ANY prying eyes. Second, if our systems were compromised the damage would be minimal as an attacker would not be able to do much with the encrypted data. This is just one step we have taken to help ensure the privacy and security of our customers, if you have questions regarding how we secure your data feel free to contact us.

Stolen Canon EOS REBEL T2i Camera Tracked In New York
Monday, January 16, 2012

Another stolen camera as been tracked down with CameraTrace. A Canon EOS REBEL T2i valued at $1,500 was stolen February 2011 from Mr. Lee in New York. He used CameraTrace and found several wedding photos posted online taken with his camera after it was stolen. We confirmed that the make, model and serial number matched his camera which were taken towards the end of February, the same month the camera was stolen. Mr. Lee however did not file a police report at the time of the theft “So I just went to the NYPD, and they said they wont help me. After three months it’s considered ‘lost property’, and even though I know and they know it was stolen and I know where it is, they wont do anything. I should have filed a police report! Now I am kicking myself.” We are still trying to work with the NYPD regarding this case and hopefully will get their assistance.

One of the photos found that was taken by the stolen camera

People usually don’t file police reports as they assume they will never see their device again, which was generally true, with a recovery rate of around 3% on average. Burglary is one of the hardest crimes to solve due to the lack of evidence. However, with new technology such as GadgetTrak these odds are increasingly in the victims favor. Before police can act on any evidence that GadgetTrak provides a police report must be filed this is true for all device types. If you have a device stole file a police report!

GadgetTrak Tracks Stolen Phone In Coos Bay, Oregon
Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Sprint retailer in Coos Bay, Oregon had a problem with theft of their demo units in the past and installed GadgetTrak on all of their demo devices. It did not take long to find see it in action. An HTC Evo phone was cut from its cradle and taken out of the store. Usually that would be the end of the story, as recovering stolen phones is almost impossible to track down without GadgetTrak, as the carriers will not assist and identify if the phone is activated again.

Not only does GadgetTrak provide location information for the phone, but also backs up all data loaded on the phone such as photos and contacts. Many times location is not enough for police to act, particularly as services such as Find My Phone from Apple have been known to be inaccurate, leading police to not trust just location data alone. The thief synched the phone with his contacts and working with the police were able to identify the suspects identity. We were able to identify the suspects parents, tattoo artist, dentist amongst others. The data provided to law enforcement allowed them to quickly identify a suspect they knew very well. This is the second recovery we have had for the Sprint chain and given the amount of thieves that target these stores as more expensive phones are released, it won’t be the last.

Keep Your Camera Safe: CameraTrace helps recover missing cameras.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011

We are happy to announce the launch of CameraTrace. Formerly in beta as "GadgetTrak Serial Search," the tool is an advanced search engine that allows users to find images taken by a specific camera with just the serial number. The technology helps users track down stolen cameras as well as monitor copyrighted photos online.

CameraTrace now provides premium services including the ability to register a camera and receive real-time notifications when new images are found. Also included in the one-time $10 premium service fee is a metallic "Lost & Found Tag" with a unique serial number that provides an easy way for someone who finds a lost camera to get in touch with the owner. The tag also serves as a warning to would-be-thieves that the device is registered with the system.

John Heller recovered
his stolen camera after having it stolen more than a year prior thanks to CameraTrace.

The technology has already helped many track down their stolen cameras; crimes that would have otherwise gone unsolved. One such case allowed professional photographer John Heller to recover his $9,000 camera after having it stolen from him while on assignment a year prior. Using CameraTrace, he was able to find images captured by his camera a year after it was stolen. The camera had been sold twice, first on Craigslist and then on eBay. The evidence not only got Heller’s camera back, but also a stash of other stolen property being fenced. You can read more about the amazing recovery on TechCrunch and Gizmodo as well as on our blog.

The CameraTrace search engine uses a proprietary technology to scan photo sharing websites and extracts embedded serial numbers from images. The powerful grid computing technology has scanned and analyzed more than 5 billion images from the popular photo sharing site Flickr, consisting of all photos uploaded to the site from 2006 to the present, as well as images from other popular photo sharing sites.The system has identified more than 300 different high-end camera models across multiple manufacturers including Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Kodak that embed the unique camera serial numbers in the images the capture.

The new CameraTrace tool will have a significant impact on the theft of cameras, as thieves will now need to be concerned with the fact that a camera they steal today can be traced back to them in the future if someone uploads photos from it to the Internet. The company is working with law enforcement to scan serial numbers from older camera theft cases, as well as research other crimes the tool may help solve.

Here at GadgetTrak we have a long history of innovation and developing custom tracking and data protection technologies. Our patented technology is currently embedded in FLIR thermal imaging cameras, allowing them to be tracked if they are stolen as well as in assisting with export controls. We have also pioneered tracking and data protection technologies for laptops and smartphones that have led to amazing recoveries.

We will be at this year’s CES. To setup a meeting to learn more about our technologies at the show, please contact us at

GadgetTrak Recovers Stolen MacBook Pro – Boulder, Colorado
Tuesday, November 15, 2011

GadgetTrak customer Nathan, who attends the University of Colorado in Boulder, lives with several friends in a house. The group went to a concert and came back late one night to discover their house was broken into and several items were missing, including four laptops. Luckily, Nathan had installed GadgetTrak on his MacBook Pro and quickly logged in and activated tracking for his device. Within hours he was receiving tracking reports with photos of a suspect and location information which put the laptop in Longmont, Colorado, about a half hour drive from where the device was stolen.

The Longmont police acted quickly. Using the information provided by GadgetTrak, they were able to identify the suspect and went in with a search warrant this morning. Nathan’s laptop was recovered, the others (which did not have GadgetTrak installed on them) are still missing, however. The police were able to get additional information from the suspect that may lead to the recovery of the other stolen property. The investigation is ongoing.

GadgetTrak Featured in Forbes
Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Download a PDF version article

GadgetTrak was featured in this month’s Forbes Magazine, along with a great photo of our founder and CEO Ken Westin. The article “To Shame A Thief” by Kashmir Hill discusses the growing market for software such as GadgetTrak as well as the privacy risks this technology can introduce if not implemented properly. The article shows how the technology can be helpful to recover stolen devices using one of our latest recoveries as an example where we recovered several stolen phones for a Sprint store.

The more negative stories where this type of technology has been implemented irresponsibly dealt with one of our competitors who provide their employees with backdoors into customers’ computers. This is something we always felt was highly invasive and not needed when we can rely on other more advanced methods such as Wi-Fi positioning and web camera capture to locate the device and identify the suspect.

Although GadgetTrak does not have the largest number of customers, we believe we provide a better level of service for customers who are concerned about their privacy and security. GadgetTrak is one of the only products in our space who cover every major platform for laptops and smartphones, as well as allow users full control of their data, how it is used, stored and delivered.

GadgetTrak Recovers Stolen MacBook Pro in Olympia, Washington
Friday, October 7, 2011

GadgetTrak customer Jessie had just purchased a brand new MacBook Pro just a few weeks ago at The Mac Store. The sales representatives recommended GadgetTrak and her father insisted that she buy and install it. It was a good thing she did, because just last week the new Mac was stolen out of her car. She logged and activated tracking for the device immediately and filed a police report through GadgetTrak, shortly thereafter the device started sending photos of the thieft and other information back to her. She passed the photos on to the police and they knew who the thief was, as he has a bit of a record. The police went and recovered the laptop and Jessie now has it back in her possession, we received a great email from her thanking us:

“I got my computer back!!!!!!! I cannot thank you enough. I am literally doing a dance! I know for a fact I wouldn’t have got my computer back without GadgetTrak. You guys are an unbelievable resource. I have already told all my friends to go get GadgetTrak. Thank you so much!”

- Jessie

Laptop Theft Recovery Software & Privacy
Tuesday, August 30, 2011

One of our competitors who develops laptop theft recovery software has made the news recently due to a lawsuit filed against them where they are accused of crossing the line in terms of privacy, particularly a staff member who had back door access to a customer’s computer. It is important to note that not all theft recovery software and approaches are created equal, we saw serious issues early on with the “traditional approach” to theft recovery which requires the company to provide a back door into the computer system for monitoring center staff to access.

When we designed our software we kept customer privacy at the top of mind and built the system so that a back door was not needed. With privacy in mind we also gather only the critical information that law enforcement need to recover a stolen device. We do not capture screenshots, not only because it is not needed but we also felt that it was in violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act ( ECPA ). The information we do gather includes location, network information and a photo of who is using the computer, all of which are sent directly to the owner of the device. The device owner can even configure the software to use their own mail servers for added privacy. The data our customers’ see when testing the software is the only information our software gathers and they have full control of how and where this data is delivered and stored.

GadgetTrak pioneered the use of Wi-Fi positioning for laptop theft recovery, paired with the web camera capture and network information we provide law enforcement powerful tools to investigate theft. Since launching our innovative and privacy-safe approach to laptop theft recovery in 2008 we have had a very high recovery rate while still protecting our customers’ privacy. By using advanced technology we are able to provide law enforcement with the information they need to recover the device, while at the same time not requiring invasive back doors that not only compromise customers’ privacy, but also security.

If you have questions or concerns regarding privacy, or our technology feel free to contact me directly.

Thank You

Ken Westin
GadgetTrak Founder & CEO

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