IT expert tracks down stolen laptop through Facebook

MacBook thief picked the wrong laptop to pinch in the troubles
Kerry Butters
Kerry Butters -


A teenager stands accused of looting during the recent London riots after he was tracked down by the owner of the laptop he stole.

Soheil Khalilfar, 18, most likely wasn’t expecting to be caught when he fired up the stolen Macbook Pro, owned by Greg Martin. But unfortunately for the thief, the computer belonged to an information security expert who had installed a tracking device on the machine to cover such an eventuality.

Martin, who has worked for the FBI and NASA, simply sat back and waited for the crook to start using the laptop and then tracked him down via his Facebook profile and sent police to his address to arrest him.

Khalilfar has been charged with handling stolen goods.

Martin, who has been a professional hacker for the majority of his working life, installed the open source software from the Prey Project. Once he had flagged the computer as missing he waited for the first reports to come in, although he was initially worried that the thief might not be able to get around the security password.

However, it seems that he was clued up enough to create a new account and skirt the Mac login. Two days later, whilst Martin was on a business trip, he received an email report to inform him the machine was being used.

“Next thing I did was buy a pack of smokes and run back to my hotel room so the games could begin… I cranked up the frequency of reports to one in every five minutes to try to get a screen capture of him using Gmail or Facebook so I could snag a name or login credentials,” he explains in his blog.

Two hours later the looter finally logged into Facebook, which Martin describes as “a treasure trove of information.”

Martin logged the thief’s name, where he went to school, his address and internet details, including IP address and wireless connection.

Khalilfar had even helpfully used the Mac’s webcam, ensuring bang up-to-date pictures of himself could be handed over to the authorities.

Mr Khalilfar was bailed to appear before West London Magistrates’ Court on Friday.

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