PC Phone Home
$29.95 for individual copy.Enterprise version available. Freeware version (not tamper-resistant) also available.
Brigadoon Software, Inc.
Theft of laptops is a problem, and Brigadoon Software has come up with an interesting approach to dealing with this issue: They install a stealth email application (which resists format, low-level format, and FDISK) that sends you periodic emails on sign-on, giving you the date, time, and IP address of the sign-on. Given this information (and a court order), the ISP can give police the telephone number from which the connection was made, from which the police can locate the address.
The assumption behind this is that the thief is likely to use the stolen machine to sign on to the internet. In order to facilitate this, and to prevent the bypassing of the program, it is important to set the BOIS so that the computer will only boot from the C drive, and to put a password on the BIOS program so that this cannot be changed by anyone other than you. A corollary of this is that you can’t BIOS-level password-protect the hard drive at boot time, because you want the thief to be able to boot your machine and sign onto the internet. Obviously, it would be best if the tracking email were sent to an address that would appear on some machine other than yours.
This is a clever idea that appears to work well. While nothing is perfect, $29.95 seems to be a very reasonable price for an individual to pay to increase the likelihood of getting their stolen laptop back (we don’t know the cost for bulk purchases within a corporation), At the time of writing, PC Phone Home is available for the Windows and Macintosh OS’, with Linux, Palm, and PocketPC versions coming soon.