It is not weird that you want to know how to make a stolen laptop untraceable. What would actually be weird is if you get caught, you will also have a criminal record to yourself. Depending on the value of the laptop, you can be fined and jailed.
You can make a stolen laptop untraceable disconnecting it completely from the internet. Before you connect it to the internet, disable location services, locate and remove any anti-theft software in the system. Consider replacing the hard disk, operating system and use proxies for browsing.
You are not untraceable with a stolen laptop if you do nothing about it. Whenever the laptop is online, it could be pinging your location to its owners.
The California police, for instance, traced and recovered a stolen laptop after the owner, Joshua Kaufman, traced the location with software. The software also sent the owner photos of the thief using it in bed.
The thief, Muthanna Aldebashi, was held on a charge of suspicion of stolen property possession.
Can you make a stolen laptop untraceable?
You can make a stolen laptop untraceable, the most effective way to keep a stolen laptop from being traced is to disconnect it from all networks. A computer connected to the internet leaves traces, typically by pinging its owner, especially if a tracking software is installed.
How to Make a Stolen Laptop Untraceable
This section shows you how you can make sure you are not traced with a stolen laptop. It is even easier to make a laptop untraceable compared to a stolen phone.
Below are the steps regarding how to make a stolen laptop untraceable:
Disable location services
The first thing you do to make a stolen laptop untraceable is to disable the location services. The steps to disable location services is different on Mac and Windows. It also differs in the model.
You can search how to disable location services online for the particular type of stolen laptop you possess.
Note that there could be independent software on the laptop that reports the location, so you want to locate and disable such software. You should go to the laptop settings and see what applications use the location services and turn them off.
Smart owners will hide the app from the app list as the hide feature is made available to prevent thieves from turning them off. Some are password-protected, meaning that to manually turn off the tracker, you need the owner’s password.
Before you connect the stolen laptop to the internet, ensure to disable the location services successfully.
Encrypt the keystrokes
Experts believe that encrypting the keystrokes of a stolen laptop can protect you from being traced. You are basically shielding yourself from key lumberjacks/Rats.
In some cases, the administration, security offices, and even hackers have key lumberjacks they can use to record the client’s IP address, open ports, Mac address, working framework, etc.
They can even install applications and set default internet browsers that all help to trace your location.
Perhaps, the best way to protect a stolen laptop from key lumberjacks is to scramble the keystrokes with services such as Key scrambler.
Set up a strong password
Encrypting the keystrokes of the stolen laptop is not the only thing you do to make it untraceable. Your new passwords can sell out your location, so you want to use strong passwords.
You can also set a secret word or phrase to further protect the stolen laptop in the event of an online hack to track you. It is advisable to use a password-generating tool to set passwords on your browsers and other services that connect to the internet when you are online with a stolen laptop.
Turn off the anti-theft feature
You can go into BIOS, find and disable the anti-theft setting. The name can be different. In some cases, you will find something like ‘Intel AT’. THs theft setting may take your time to disable, so must not connect this laptop to the internet until you fix it.
If the BIOS is password-protected, you may be able to reset it with a motherboard jumper. Alternatively, you can pull out the BIOS battery and main battery, allow up to 30 seconds before replacing them.
Change the hard disk
Changing the hard disk of a stolen laptop is one of the things you do to make the laptop untraceable. Ensure to remove the HDD/SSD. You can also remove the soldered networking chips from the stolen laptop.
Install a new HDD/SSD and format it in NTFS or FAT32 or EXT4 if you run Linux in the stolen laptop. You also have to format/factory reset the stolen laptop.
Change the OS
Apart from a new hard disk, you must change the OS (Operating System) on the stolen laptop to help make it untraceable. Use an OS installer to boot from removable media, wipe all partitions and run a clean OS install.
Move from Mac to Windows
If the stolen laptop is a Mac, you have to change it to Windows. A MacOS laptop may still be connecting to the cloud to ping the owner about your location.
Avoid Google and Microsoft services
If you must use the stolen laptop computer online, do not use services such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and more.
All Google services, including Gmail, Search, Hangouts, Duo, Chrome, etc., can be used to track your location.
Google builds an internet profile on you, so they almost know wherever you are. They may also tell others about your location as their apps can be used to know your location.
There are unverified reports that Google cooperates with government agencies and may willingly give your information to them.
Like Google, do not use Microsoft products and services. Microsoft even uses a system that allows government employees to access information about you on Microsoft.
Stay anonymous while browsing
Your internet connection is your biggest sellout. If possible, do not use the laptop while connected to the internet. Your Mac address can somehow be traced.
But if you must use the laptop online, perhaps for gaming and all that, do everything possible to stay hidden on the internet. You can use proxies. Do not also connect to public Wi-Fi.
You do not also want the IP you use for the laptop known, so you use VPN. VPNs are not 100%, so do not think you are completely safe with a VPN. Some VPNs are not worth it, go for premium VPNs only.
Experts advise you to avoid any website that does not use an SSL certificate. Your browser will alert you of this, when it happens, go back.
Cover the front camera while on the internet
In the introduction paragraph, I mentioned how Joshua Kaufman was able to get photos of Muthanna Aldebashi who stole his laptop. The camera on your laptop can be hacked to uncover your face. It can be through an existing software on the laptop or a phishing URL that you clicked and installed on the stolen PC.
Use web proxies to hide your IP while browsing the internet with a stolen PC. Web proxies typically forward HTTP requests which hide the address you are surfing the web with.
Proxies do a middleman job between you and the internet. You can search for any of the proxy service providers online. You only enter your URL and then surf the internet anonymously.
If you use public proxies, any other person can use them too. You can buy a private proxy server which is available as a premium proxy service. Check different vendors for the best price.
How is a stolen laptop tracked?
A stolen laptop can be tracked in different ways. Typically, when a laptop is stolen, the owner reports to the local law enforcement and then to a PC tracking service provider. The service provider needs a police investigation before they can work.
So, if the stolen laptop owner contacts a tracking service, they now serve as the middleman. They will first contact the agency that is involved in your case.
Stolen laptop trackers rely on software or tracking agent that pings them to your location. Once you have an internet connection on the laptop, including Wi-Fi GSM, etc., it will be used to trace the location.
The process is all covert, so the thief cannot see the chatter. The trackers will then force a couple of other tools onto the laptop, basically forensic tools. This will send them much more information from the stolen laptop than it would in the normal state.
A stolen laptop can have an undetectable software
If a stolen laptop has undetectable software, it can avoid detection. The software typically sits in the firmware, meaning that even if you format or remove the hard drive, the firmware agent will check with the software agent immediately after the laptop is powered back on.
The software has now automatically installed a new version so that it has a high persistence level that makes the stolen laptop traceable.
Since the stolen laptop is traceable with the undetectable software, the tracking agency will get in touch with the investigator assigned for the case.
Now, the newly installed software on the stolen laptop will start sending screen captures, key captures, Wi-Fi triangulation or GPS points, file retrieval and more, to the person tracking it.
Information successfully collected from the stolen laptop is compiled and sent to law enforcement.
Someone with a stolen laptop can be traced to anything they do online with the laptop. Facebook can help to trace the stolen laptop.
If the person possessing the stolen laptop orders things online from eBay, it can be used to trace their location.
These pockets of information are pulled together and validated with investigative tools that police officers use daily, and also looking at photos and triangulation maps.
Read also: What if you smuggle a phone into school?
Can a stolen laptop be tracked after factory reset?
A stolen laptop can be tracked after a factory reset if tracking software is installed. A laptop manufacturer can add code for Absolute Software’s LoJack in BIOS. This allows the assigned investigator and tracking agent to track a stolen laptop after a factory reset or wiping the hard drive.
Can a stolen laptop be tracked with serial number?
It is not easy to track a stolen laptop with only the serial number. The serial number of a laptop can only be used alongside other materials to track a stolen laptop.