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Tracking Thieves With 'Find my iPhone' 424

An anonymous reader wrote in to say "A friend of mine who just got an iPhone 3GS and has Mobile Me just used the "Find my iPhone" feature to track down his lost and subsequently stolen iPhone. This story involves three nerds wandering sketchy streets with a MacBook, and ends with a confrontation at a bus stop."
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Tracking Thieves With 'Find my iPhone'

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  • by MiKM ( 752717 ) on Monday June 22, 2009 @11:14AM (#28422689)
    I would have been somewhat amused if their laptop got stolen as well. Yes, I know I'm a terrible person.
  • by Lucas123 ( 935744 ) on Monday June 22, 2009 @11:15AM (#28422707) Homepage
    In other related news, the number of deaths among tech nerds increased this month, some officials believe as a direct result of iPhone owners attempting to retrieve their stolen phones from violent thugs.
    • by Tubal-Cain ( 1289912 ) on Monday June 22, 2009 @11:18AM (#28422739) Journal
      And here I thought it was exposure to sunlight.
    • by mveloso ( 325617 ) on Monday June 22, 2009 @11:22AM (#28422831)

      It's this mentality of urban fear that shows how screwed up US cities really are.

      • by happywaffle ( 664189 ) on Monday June 22, 2009 @11:40AM (#28423117)
        Yeah, that's kind of what I think with every "You're glad you didn't get shot!" comment. It wasn't that bad a neighborhood. There was a kid's birthday party going on on the corner, for God's sake. And the number of thieves who are packing heat and ready to use it is relatively small. Not saying I wasn't acting a *mite* imprudently - we were just acting in the moment - but I still don't feel particularly foolish in retrospect.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cayenne8 ( 626475 )
          "Yeah, that's kind of what I think with every "You're glad you didn't get shot!" comment. It wasn't that bad a neighborhood. There was a kid's birthday party going on on the corner, for God's sake."

          Well, that sad truth of it is...people who live in highly ethnic, poor neighborhoods TRY to have normal lives too (they're not all bad, no), but, I've heard story after story about shootings breaking out, and kids at an outdoor birthday party getting injured or killed in the crossfire.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        No, it shows how screwed up US suburbanites are. People that actually live in the city are mostly level headed about the "dangers" of the city.

      • Not really, name me one place where going to find somebody that you know is receiving stolen goods doesn't raise that possibility. This is hardly just an urban thing, trying to get things back from thieves is potentially very dangerous, you never know when that thief is going to turn out to be a two strikes offender.
        • If the thief was a two-strikes offender he should be glad that the cops didn't get involved. The property can be returned and everyone walks away.

      • by JCSoRocks ( 1142053 ) on Monday June 22, 2009 @11:51AM (#28423317)
        Mom says it's dangerous to leave the basement.
      • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) on Monday June 22, 2009 @11:58AM (#28423461) Homepage Journal

        Indeed. I live about three blocks west of 11th street, anything east of that is the ghetto. My favorite bar is on 15th street, and I walk there frequently. Aside from hookers and dope dealers soliciting me, I've had no problems despite my hazel eyes. Now, if I were to "go off" on one of these folks, I'd probably be in trouble.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BrokenHalo ( 565198 )
        It's this mentality of urban fear that shows how screwed up US cities really are.

        True, but even so, TFA's author's actions are very much those of an optimist. He could easily have been shot or had the crap kicked out of him.

        I would suggest that a pragmatic approach might be the ability to remotely disable the phone totally so that it has to be sent some sort of authenticated authorisation code to be used at all.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I live near Miami. I remember once telling my cousins in the UK that I really enjoyed Florida. They responded to the effect, "How can you live in Miami? Don't you worry about the assault rifle wielding drug dealing, ganster thug rapists?"

        Recently in Philly, driving along one absolutely normal looking city block, my friends said remarked that they were surprised that people were walking around *at night* in this warzone.

        It's one thing to be careless but this irrational fear of cities is mindboggling.

        To see

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Philadelphia has over 400 murders a year, and has for the past couple years. My father is a doctor, and apparently Scandanavian doctors come to Philadelphia with the express purpose of studying gunshot wounds, since there are several per day in Philly.

          If you were driving through North Philly or parts of West Philly, your friend very well may have been right that you were driving through a 'war zone.'

      • by jcnnghm ( 538570 ) on Monday June 22, 2009 @01:17PM (#28424841)

        It's this mentality of urban fear that shows how screwed up US cities really are.

        Perhaps they just aren't as naive as you. Here's [] a neat map showing crime reported in Baltimore over the last 11 days. You'll notice all the fists and cross hair icons. Those are assaults and shootings. Just because you don't like it, doesn't mean that cities aren't overrun with dangerous thugs. The ghetto is a dangerous place.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by argStyopa ( 232550 )

        Never actually HAD your ass kicked downtown, have you? I'm not saying that everytime you go through an urban area it's The Warriors 2009, but seriously, if you think the whole "urban fear" is just an invention, you're simply naive.

        From the article: (the guy was thinking)"You probably think the angels of death have found you."

        No, what crossed my mind was that if he was an actual criminal and not just some opportunistic teen, his thought would be more like "Sweet iPhone, and there are 3 dickweeds running aro

    • Weird. Most of the geeks I know are far from defenseless.


  • From TFA

    "I'd been amazed that the phone had enough battery life to make it through the night and still beam its location;"

    How much juice does one of these things consume??

  • Memo to self (Score:5, Insightful)

    by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Monday June 22, 2009 @11:21AM (#28422795) Homepage Journal

    When stealing electronic equipment immediately disable all radios or remove all batteries.

    While I'm at it remember to never plug it into any network until I'm sure it's not going to phone home.

    • by dzfoo ( 772245 )

      And don't forget the most important lesson: Do not be intimidated by (however many) guys coming at you with a laptop, especially if there's some sort of geeky toy convention nearby.


    • by oneirophrenos ( 1500619 ) on Monday June 22, 2009 @11:34AM (#28423011)
      Memo to self: do not post plans to steal electronic equipment on /. without ticking the "Post Anonymously" box
    • Re:Memo to self (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RedK ( 112790 ) on Monday June 22, 2009 @11:35AM (#28423031)
      Wait, how do you remove the iPhone's battery again ?
      • There's an angle that hasn't popped up: impossible to remove batteries = additional theft deterrant.

        (No, it's not perfect, you can just turn the stupid thing off, but it's just one extra thing to keep track of, and most criminals don't remember to cover all the bases, especially people who snag lost phones)

      • That's why Steve's slaving away at an iZapper app. It randomly zaps the users with about a thousand volts just to make sure they meant to be holding it.
    • -1 not geeky enough.

      A small, portable Faraday cage should do the trick until you're in the clear, when you can take the appropriate steps to make sure the device can't be tracked.

  • by rodrigoandrade ( 713371 ) on Monday June 22, 2009 @11:21AM (#28422815)
    Yeah, the tech works alright, until you find out it's in the hands of a drug lord in the ghetto. Go get it tiger!!
    • by BitterAndDrunk ( 799378 ) on Monday June 22, 2009 @12:31PM (#28424049) Homepage Journal
      (eating with chopsticks, to iPhone owner)
      Grab a seat there, boy. Want some dinner? Grab yourself an egg roll. We got everything here from a diddle-eyed-Joe to a damned-if-I-know.

      No thanks.

      No thanks? What does that mean? Means you ate before you came down here? All full. Is that it? Naw, I don't think so. I think you're too scared to be eatin'. Now, see we're sittin' down here, ready to negotiate, and you've already given up your shit. I'm still a mystery to you. But I know exactly where your ass is comin' from. See, if I asked you if you wanted some dinner and you grabbed an egg roll and started to chow down, I'd say to myself, "This motherfucker's carryin' on like he ain't got a care in the world. Who know? Maybe he don't. Maybe this fool's such a bad motherfucker, he don't got to worry about nothin', he just sit down, eat my Chinese, watch my TV." See? You ain't even sat down yet. On that TV there, since you been in the room, is a woman with her titties hangin' out, and you ain't even bothered to look. You just been starin' at me. Now, I know I'm pretty, but I ain't as pretty as a couple of titties.

      IPhone Owner takes out an envelope and throws it on the table.
      I'm not eatin' 'cause I'm not hungry. I'm not sittin' 'cause I'm not stayin'. I'm not lookin' at the movie 'cause I saw it seven years ago. It's "The Mack" with Max Julian, Carol Speed, and Richard Pryor, written by Bobby Poole, directed by Michael Campus, and released by Cinerama Releasing Company in 1984. I'm not scared of you. I just don't like you. In that envelope is some payoff money. MyiPhone's moving on to some greener pastures. We're not negotiatin'. I don't like to barter. I don't like to dicker. I never have fun in Tijuana. That price is non-negotiable. What's in that envelope is for my peace of mind. My peace of mind is worth that much. Not one penny more, not one penny more.

      (with NO APOLOGIES to Quentin Tarrantino)

  • No remote shutoff (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Norsefire ( 1494323 ) * on Monday June 22, 2009 @11:23AM (#28422845) Journal
    Something that occurred to me while reading was that if they hadn't found it, while there is a way to remotely wipe the data there isn't a way to remotely lockdown the phone.

    A way to remotely set the phone to full volume and play a siren-tone non-stop would be nice too.

    Or a remote self-destruct feature.
  • Idiot steals phone

    Idiot not keeps using it with the SIM it came with, but also doesn't turn it off, because he is an idiot

    People can track down the phone, because, again, the theif is an idiot.

    Anyone with a clue knows you can trace a stolen SIM. Most people would just toss the SIM the instant they find any phone they did not plan on returning.

  • by gubers33 ( 1302099 ) on Monday June 22, 2009 @11:24AM (#28422867)
    This is probably one of the more intriguing stories I have read on Slashdot recently. It was both amusing and informative. The best part is that this is pretty much free advertising for "Find my iPhone". Not only free advertising, but great advertising. I would bet money that half the people who read this article are going to download this app when they are done reading for the exact reason they want to be able to find their stolen iPhone.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mrdoogee ( 1179081 )
      This service is not just an app though. Find my iPhone requires a MobileMe account ( the new branding of .Mac) which will cost you $99/yr. As a questionably useful insurance policy on finding your phone, not really a good deal, however MobileMe does have many other great features that make it worth the money, but I wouldn't sign up the service just in case I ever lose my phone and want to confront a thief.

      ymmv though.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Just so the G1 doesn't feel left out, this is very possible and free on an Android phone. With Latitude enabled on the phone it is simply a matter of signing into iGoogle and checking your Latitude location.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by moon3 ( 1530265 )
      Yep, and kudos to Apple marketing team.

      I down want to tarnish your enthusiasm for the story, but it has all the signs of an intended viral, paid up by Apple marketing. Do not forget all the stunts they pulled. I would say, 10% this is a genuine story.
  • This is awesome. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SeeSp0tRun ( 1270464 )
    The issue brought up that some folks may get hurt over the service is valid, but that is the fault of the person chasing the offender.

    Why not have it endorsed by law enforcement? You go to the police, say my $400 (and to some $600) phone was stolen. Maybe a lawyer can verify this, but I recall the grand theft charge being lowered to something around there.

    The issue would be getting the police to believe that the little blue dot is a real blue dot, with someone's real stolen phone at that location.
  • by RandomUsername99 ( 574692 ) on Monday June 22, 2009 @11:42AM (#28423139)

    Being one of the people that has spent a considerable amount of time living in one of those neighborhoods I can definitively say that what this guy did was extremely dangerous and stupid. I wouldn't pull that kind of BS with someone I sorta knew while they were standing in public, let alone in a neighborhood I've never been to before. I'm surprised that the guy who had the phone wasn't using it to call his friends to get down there and kick their asses, if for no other reason than to not appear to have been rolled by 3 scrawny nerds armed with a laptop in broad daylight.

    If he stole the phone in the first place, he probably wasn't the most savory character in the world. What if he was on parole/probation/suspended sentence for something serious and could have been locked up? What if he was on some crazy uppers? What if he was actually meeting a large group of his buddies on that street corner? What if he was any of the above *and* armed?

    Not trying to be a troll here, but I'm guessing that those guys have never really had their asses handed to them before.

    • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Monday June 22, 2009 @12:39PM (#28424191) Journal

      "I can definitively say that what this guy did was extremely dangerous and stupid."

      Really? If that were the case, then we've already lost. Our country is filled with cowardice, like yours. As the powers continue to take away your freedoms, one at a time, in the name of peace and security, you sit back and cower in fear of losing more if you "act up" and stand up for yourself.

      I'm reminded of the quote ....

      All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke)

      So, do nothing, be nothing, as cowards usually are. Hide behind your computer screen in anonymity whining about how bad the world is knowing that by being a coward, you have contributed to exactly what you fear most.

  • ....Perhaps this would be an alternative: []

    Not nearly as cool as MobileMe, but likely as effective (and perhaps safer too).

  • by irchs ( 752829 )

    Provided that the phone doesn't have a pin lock, the Find My iPhone feature can be disabled in the phones preferences, rendering it useless... :(

  • by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Monday June 22, 2009 @11:58AM (#28423463) Journal

    Does anyone know if this feature works outside the U.S.? Overseas? If the country the phone is (lost) in does not have Google Maps (like Vietnam) will it just give a geographic coordinate (latitude and longitude)?
    Does anyone know if Mobile me will work on a "hacked" iPhone? Unfortunately that's the only kind that works here!
    Can the Mobile Me feature be disabled completely by a thief? (I know that the location finding aspect can be disabled by turning off location services, sorry if I spilled the beans). Is it protected by a password? Will it survive SIM removal/replacement? Will it survive a complete OS replacement (I guess not)?
    Thanks for any and all answers to these questions!

  • by Absolut187 ( 816431 ) on Monday June 22, 2009 @12:37PM (#28424147) Homepage

    This thieving scumbag deserves to be fired.

    I'd call the cops too, now that you know who did it.
    He deserves an arrest on his record also.

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter