Jan 23, 2009

For many of us, it’s a nightmare scenario: You leave your laptop unattended for just a moment on a bench, in a bathroom, in a cafeteria, on the bus and when you come back to retrieve it, it’s missing. No sign of it, no witnesses to its disappearance, nada; it’s just gone.

There are many ways to alleviate the loss of a laptop, such as regular file backup, and prevention is naturally the best measure (handcuffs and guard dogs come to mind), but some events in life just can’t be helped. However, if the unfortunate does ever occur, there are a couple solutions that may help you retrieve your stolen property after the fact.

One such measure is to use a dynamic DNS service to “lojack” your laptop. Lojacking (coined by the LoJack car security company) refers to using discreet mechanisms to track the location of an object; if someone takes it, you can see where the device is being used, hopefully providing the thief’s location to the police in an effort to regain your property.

In this case, using our own Dynamic DNS service, you can create a hostname in DNS that will allow you to see the laptop’s current IP address from anywhere. If your laptop is taken and used to access the Internet, the hostname will be instantly updated to the new location’s address, giving you the opportunity to track the thief and get your stuff back.

(Granted, this particular method requires the thief to log onto the Internet with your laptop without wiping the operating system first. However, with the growing prevalence of physical lojacking mechanisms, a thief would need to be fairly dim to steal a computer of any kind in the first place. Besides, even a long shot at recovering your laptop is better than nothing!)

Setting up the laptop lojack is a simple, three-step procedure:

  1. Create an account. First, you will need to create a Dynamic DNS account. Accounts are quick to create.

  2. Create a Dynamic DNS host. Once your account has been created and confirmed, you can add a Dynamic DNS hostname to your account here. Choose an easy name to remember, such as mylaptop.dyndns.org, and click Add Host to create it. Your new hostname should be live on our nameservers within seconds, allowing you to see the public IP address of current location.

  3. Install an update client. The last step is to install an update client. An update client is a lightweight application which monitors the computer’s environment for IP address changes, then assigns the Dynamic DNS host with the new address. For example, if you use the laptop at home, then bring it to work, the client will update the hostname to your office’s IP address; when you take it back home, the host will be updated again to your home network’s IP.

With the update client installed on your laptop, the last step is complete; the client is designed to be “set and forget,” working silently in the background to keep the host up-to-date with the laptop’s location. If the laptop is ever lost or stolen, you can log into your DynDNS.com account or check the hostname with a ping or dig to view its most recent IP address. (With an Account Upgrade, you can also review the last five days’ worth of update logs to track its journey if the thief uses it often.)