With the growing ubiquity of, and user reliance on, mobile computing devices (laptops, PDAs, smart phones, etc.), loss or theft of a device is increasingly likely, disruptive, and costly. Internet-based tracking systems provide a method for mitigating this risk. These tracking systems send, over the Internet, updates regarding the current location of the device to a remotely administered repository. If the device is lost or stolen, but maintains Internet connectivity and unmodified software, the tracking system can keep tabs on the current whereabouts of the device. This data could prove invaluable when the appropriate authorities attempt to recover the device.
Unfortunately, with current proprietary tracking systems users sacrifice location privacy. Indeed, even while the device is still in the rightful owner's possession, the tracking system is keeping tabs on the locations it (and its owner) visit. Even worse, with some commercial products, even outsiders (parties not affiliated with the tracking provider) can "piggy-back" on the tracking system's Internet traffic to uncover a mobile device user's private information and/or locations visited.
Adeona has three main properties:
- Private: Adeona uses state-of-the-art cryptographic mechanisms to ensure that the owner is the only party that can use the system to reveal the locations visited by a device.
- Reliable: Adeona uses a community-based remote storage facility, ensuring retrievability of recent location updates.
- Open source and free: Adeona's software is licensed under GPLv2. While your locations are secret, the tracking system's design is not.
The Mac OS X version also has an option to capture pictures of the laptop user or thief using the built-in iSight camera and the freeware tool isightcapture. Like your location information, these images are privacy-protected so that only the laptop owner (or an agent of the owner's choosing) can access them.
Adeona is the first Open Source system for tracking the location of your lost or stolen laptop that does not rely on a proprietary, central service. This means that you can install Adeona on your laptop and go — there's no need to rely on a single third party. What's more, Adeona addresses a critical privacy goal different from existing commercial offerings. It is privacy-preserving. This means that no one besides the owner (or an agent of the owner's choosing) can use Adeona to track a laptop. Unlike other systems, users of Adeona can rest assured that no one can abuse the system in order to track where they use their laptop.
Adeona is designed to use the Open Source OpenDHT distributed storage service to store location updates sent by a small software client installed on an owner's laptop. The client continually monitors the current location of the laptop, gathering information (such as IP addresses and local network topology) that can be used to identify its current location. The client then uses strong cryptographic mechanisms to not only encrypt the location data, but also ensure that the ciphertexts stored within OpenDHT are anonymous and unlinkable. At the same time, it is easy for an owner to retrieve location information.