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Photos from stolen laptop lead to man's arrest

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The images began arriving in Joshua Kaufman's inbox. The grainy photos are low-lit and intimate: a man curled up on a couch, sound asleep; the same man propped up against pillows on a bed, shirtless.

Who was this stranger sitting with Kaufman's stolen laptop?

Kaufman collected the images and took them to police, who did not help him. So he went online, publishing the pictures on Twitter and in a blog titled ``This Guy Has My MacBook.''

``People who followed me on Twitter retweeted it. It got picked up by social media and the press. It went super viral,'' he said. On the same day that he posted his website on Twitter, police came calling.

Police on Tuesday arrested a 27-year-old cab driver, Muthanna Aldebashi. On Wednesday, Kaufman picked up his laptop from the police.

Kaufman said he was ``surprised and amazed'' when he began receiving images of the man using his laptop.

In this image provided by Joshua Kaufman, a man later identified as Muthanna Aldebashi is seen via a webcam on a laptop owned by Kaufman. (AP)
In this image provided by Joshua Kaufman, a man later identified as Muthanna Aldebashi is seen via a webcam on a laptop owned by Kaufman. (AP)

Kaufman's case is the latest example of people, not police, using technological tools to help find their own stolen property such as cars, cell phones and digital cameras.

Kaufman had just moved to a new apartment in Oakland when a burglar broke in, taking the laptop, a bag, an electronic book reader, and a bottle of gin on March 21. He activated theft-tracking software he had installed, which began sending photos taken by the computer's built-in camera of the unauthorized user three days later.

``I wasn't sure if it would work because I never tested it before,'' he said. Most of the images ``were honestly really boring photos _ people staring into the screen. But some were definitely more humorous.''

Among them was a screenshot of the man logging onto his Gmail account, which showed an email that appeared to include the name of a business, Kaufman said. A quick Internet search revealed it was a cab company in nearby Berkeley, which Kaufman assumed was the man's workplace.

Kaufman submitted the information to police, but said they were unwilling to help and didn't respond to numerous follow-up emails.

``I know a stolen computer is small in the larger scheme but it would be nice to feel like you actually cared,'' he tweeted three days after the break-in.

Kaufman said he turned to the Internet because he became ``frustrated and thought I should try and get some attention from the media.'' He posted some of the photos, including captions such as ``I really don't want to know what this guy is doing with my MacBook'' for the image of the shirtless man in bed.

Kaufman said he received a call from Oakland police spokeswoman Holly Joshi on the day he included a link to his blog. Joshi said she first heard about the case after receiving calls from media outlets Tuesday.

``From that point on, they seemed to be on my side completely,'' he said of police. ``They were apologetic, and they continually told me that they would be doing something about it immediately.''

Joshi blamed the large volume of theft reports Oakland police receive _ about 2,400 a month for three theft investigators _ and human oversight for the department's failure to follow up on Kaufman's leads.

``It was filed away,'' Joshi said. ``It had leads, so it shouldn't have been filed away.''

Police arranged a cab ride from Aldebashi and nabbed him when they recognized his face, according to Kaufman. Aldebashi was being held in an Oakland jail on $20,000 bail, according to the the sheriff's office.

The laptop's return was the culmination of a one-man crusade of online sleuthing, social networking and moments of voyeuristic creepiness aided by the software called Hidden.

The software _ part LoJack, part nanny cam _ is equipped with location positioning software. A representative for the product's London-based developer, Flipcode Ltd., did not immediately respond to emails from The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Many portable electronics, including some digital cameras, are now equipped with wireless Internet capability and automatic geographic tagging on any photo taken _ a helpful tool when trying to see where a thief has been hanging out. It's a step beyond the LoJack system invented two decades earlier that emitted a signal from a stolen vehicle.

Joshi said investigators did not know whether Aldebashi burglarized Kaufman's apartment, noting that stolen merchandise often changes hands. Aldebashi was scheduled to be arraigned Friday.


<한글 기사>

노트북 훔친 도둑, 어플로 추적해 붙잡아

이 남자가 내 맥북을 가지고 있어요.(This Guy Has My MacBook.)”

노트북을 도난당한 한 남성이 미리 설치해둔 웹캠 프로그램으로 도둑의 얼굴 사진을 찍은 뒤 이를 블로그에 올려 화제가 되고 있다.

31일(현지시간) IT 전문 매체 매셔블(에 따르면, 미국 캘리포니아주 오클랜드에 사는 조슈아 카우프만(Joshua Kaufman)이라는 이름의 한 남성은 자신의 노트북이 사라진 것을 발견하고 당황했다.

누군가 카우프만의 노트북과 보석 몇 개를 훔쳐간 것이다.

이 때 카우프만의 머릿속을 스치는 생각이 있었다.

지난해 12월 그는 분실 노트북을 추적하는 애플리케이션을 자신의 맥북에 설치했던 것이다.

이 프로그램은 맥북이 도난 당했을 경우 원격으로 맥북의 웹캠을 조작해 도둑의 얼굴 사진을 캡쳐해 남길 수 있다.

물론 노트북 도둑은 앱이 구동되고 있다는 사실을 전혀 눈치챌 수 없다.

카우프만은 이렇게 입수한 도둑의 얼굴 사진을 “이 남자가 내 맥북을 가지고 있다(This Guy Has My MacBook)”는 글과 함께 자신의 ‘텀블러(Tumblr)’ 블로그에 지난 3월 21일 올렸다.

그는 노트북 도난 사실과 함께 노트북의 위치 정보도 경찰에 알렸지만 그래도 자료가 부족한 것 같아 블로그에 도둑의 얼굴 사진을 올린다고 밝혔다.

또 그는 도둑의 사진을 입수하는데 도움을 준 프로그램에 대해서도 ‘놀라운 앱’이라고 언급해 눈길을 끌었다.

카우프만이 설치한 이 앱의 정체는 뭘까? 바로 지난해 말 출시된 맥북 도난방지 프로그램인 ‘히든(Hidden)’이다.

이 프로그램은 노트북의 위치정보를 제공하는 것은 물론, 노트북의 웹캠을 이용해 사용자의 얼굴 사진을 찍거나 맥북의 바탕화면을 캡쳐할 수도 있다.

1년 단위로 사용료가 부과되는 유료 프로그램(기본 버전의 경우 15달러)으로 히든 앱 공식 사이트(에서 내려받을 수 있다.