Use Dropbox To Get Back Your Stolen Computer

Use Dropbox To Get Back Your Stolen Computer

If you’ve put off installing anti-theft software like Prey for so long that your laptop gets stolen before you get a chance, Consumerist reader Ryan notes that Dropbox can actually help you locate your missing computer.

While you should always have a password protecting your laptop, we’ve learned that they’re not really that hard to break into—and if someone steals your laptop and suddenly gets access, the automatically launching Dropbox daemon can help save you:

A few days ago I was playing around on the Dropbox site—I use the desktop and mobile applications a lot, but don’t interact with the site as much. While I was clicking around, I found the My Computers tab on the Account page which lists all of my devices AND their last logged IP. My stolen computer was still in the list along with its last known IP.

I stupidly didn’t password protect my old laptop, so once the thief powered up and got online Dropbox kicked in and captured their IP. I then took that address and entered it into a few websites which gave me an approximate location along with a possible latitude and longitude – which turns out to be just down the street.

It won’t give you as much information as something like Prey might, but it’ll work in a pinch if you don’t have any kind of anti-theft software installed. Hit the link to read more.

Man Gets Lead On Laptop Thief Using Dropbox Program [Consumerist]


  • You know what? This happened to me recently, so what I did was disconnect Dropbox to the stolen laptop so the thieves couldn’t get access to my documents. Foolish me.

  • While it would be a great way to mess with them a little in terms of keyloggers etc, how would this actually help you get it back though? (as the title indicates)

    An approximate adress isn’t an exact location – you could knock on doors I guess, but who would admit to stealing it? Even the police couldn’t help unless you could prove they had it, right? And this only works if they have a static IP anyway. And if the thief isn’t smart enough to notice drop box is ative. I’d probably notice, if it was me.

    • an IP alone doesn’t necessarily help you, but having their regularly-updated IP address gives you a chance to get more access – a lot of people have things like remote desktop or ssh setup, which you have a chance to get into. You could easily work out their ISP and possibly their type of connection.

      you could idenfify and list all the wifi apps in the target area with a laptop and something like kismet, then dump large files into dropbox when they’re online and see which network shows a sudden boost in traffic – it’d take a lot of trial and error but it might work. If their wifi is unprotected you’d be able to skip that whole step and just look for matching IP addresses.

      Of course, something like prey (or even logmein) would be far more useful, but he has an approximate location and a live IP address update. You could do a surprising amount with that.

  • Umm I’d be doing the following.
    1. Obtain IP
    2. Ring Police- explain and give IP
    3. Start “investigating” IP
    4. Get back laptop (and maybe some more details of my new “friend from step 3)

    Or are the Police so uninterested they can’t make a phonecall to catch a thief now?

  • My MBP was stolen and I tried to use Dropbox to check if the IP address did change. After constantly refreshing that screen for 2 days I found out that the IP address only updates if you change a file on your Dropbox so that it forces an update on all computers – which I didn’t do 🙁

    Support was very helpful, but they denied having any logs of IP addresses that ping Dropbox, but don’t actually update files.

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