Backup Provider Service Can Locate A Stolen PC

Data StorageNetworksSecuritySoftwareStorageWorkspace

Backblaze’s Locate My Computer allows users to geo-locate a computer if it has been stolen or misplaced

How is this for a deal: get all your PC’s files (unlimited capacity) backed up to the cloud, have them easily restored when you need them, and then have your notebook PC notify you of its location if it gets lost or stolen – all for $5 (£3) per month?

That is what upstart Backblaze now offers. The two-year-old online backup provider has launched a new service called Locate My Computer, which enables users to locate their lost or stolen computers. The service allows users to see the ISP, IP address, and geo-location of the misplaced computer. PC owners can even view the thief’s files if the computer is still backing-up after being pilfered.

“After all, since Backblaze helps you recover lost data, why not your computer as well?” Gleb Budman, Backblaze founder and CDO, told eWEEK.

Geo-Location And File Access

Since it launched in 2009, customers have asked Backblaze to provide their computer’s IP address so that users can forward the information to law-enforcement authorities so as to track and recover their lost or stolen computers. Backblaze uses IP addresses and wireless access points to identify the network being accessed and to geo-locate the computer, Budman said.

“Ever since we started, we’ve had a steady rat-tat-tat of calls from people who’ve lost their laptops, asking us, ‘Is there anything you can do to help me get it back?’. We helped them get their data back but we couldn’t do much more than that, because it was a very manual process,” Budman said.

“Then, we had a case last December where a PC was stolen, and the user was seeing that it was still backing up files [automatically to the Backblaze cloud],” Budman said. “The owner noticed that one of the files being backed up was a college term paper that had the name of the guy who was using the computer. The owner was able to go on Facebook – I guess the name was unique enough – and find the thief.

“That was both pretty tech-savvy and pretty lucky,” Budman admitted.

As long as Backblaze remains installed and the computer can connect to the Internet, the Locate My Computer feature enables users to access the Backblaze Map, so as to get an accurate representation of where their computer is located; to identify the ISP to which the account is attached and obtain contact information, to see the specific IP address the computer is using (imperative for police reports) and to use the new Date Range Restore feature to see the thief’s files uploaded after the theft.

“We had another case last March in which a laptop was stolen and was eventually recovered after the thief made a video about himself and it was backed up to our cloud. The owner saw the video and posted it on YouTube, with a question about who was in this video,” Budman told eWEEK.

“The video showed the thief dancing in front of the laptop; the video went viral, a million and a half people saw it, one person recognised the thief, and he was eventually caught. The thief was very surprised – and later, extremely apologetic for having taken the PC.”

Budman said that with Backblaze, all mapping data is encrypted; users must sign in to their Backblaze account to use Locate My Computer. New users will be automatically enrolled in this feature with the option to opt out at any time, and existing users can opt in starting May 23.

A team of serial entrepreneurs with security, scalability and usability backgrounds founded Backblaze, Budman said. The company was selected as a winner of the AlwaysOn Global Top 250 private companies for game-changing technology and market value.

Backblaze provides a free trial and automatically backs up all data for $5 per computer per month.

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