Stolen Laptop Is Sending The Owner Secret Photos From Its New Home In Iran

Dom Del Torto is an animator currently living in the UK. Dom Del Torto's laptop is a MacBook Pro currently living 4800km away in Iran. This was not a planned separation.

In fact, Del Torto would desperately like for his laptop (and iPad, at that) to return, but both were stolen back in the beginning of February after someone broke into his flat in London. The iPad is still missing, but the laptop, which Del Torto cleverly loaded with Hidden App, came to life after about a month of not being connected to the internet to let him know exactly where it was. And what its new owners were doing.

So, naturally, he created the tumblr Dom's laptop is in Iran to document the hijinks and misadventures of these unassuming Iranian Jenga enthusiasts.

Now, in all likelihood, these are not the people who stole his laptop. Plus, there's little he can actually do, since Iran is out of the police's jurisdiction -- but he did, at the very least, get to make a new friend sort of a little bit. But the whole tumblr is delightful, and you can check it out in its entirety right over here. [Dom's laptop is in Iran via The Telegraph]



    This doesn't sit right with me. The people in or who took these photos are most likely innocent participants in the story, posting all their personal pictures publicly is not the right thing to do. Especially since the pictures could have serious consequences for the Iranian family involved even though they did nothing wrong.

    Last edited 12/04/13 10:54 am

      they bought a stolen laptop.
      And unless they bought it at a shop, they have no excuse for not at least suspecting that it may have been stolen.
      Little sympathy from me I'm afraid.

        Oh and it is obviously loaded with the English version of the OS instead of the localised version, so even less excuse for not knowing.

          I'm not sure Apple does a localised Iranian version of OSX. Especially since Apple is not allowed to sell its products in Iran.

          Last edited 12/04/13 12:05 pm

            Firstly, you can set a language when setting up OS X (or you can change it after).

            Secondly, if Apple products can't be sold in Iran, it's new owners MUST know it's stolen - they have absolutely no excuse.

            Shame there is nothing that can be done because every other option i can think of: hiring a local to steal it back based on GPS co-ords, going and getting it yourself, iranian police - are either too expensive or unlikely to result in it's return.

              Of course, there are so many laptops including MAC, They could be localized. But usually you don't buy them localized. Specially when you buy it as second hand

          As an Iranian, I can safely say that buying a second-handed electronic device is a common practice in Iran, though people prefer buying the new ones. When they buy a second-handed device, the do not ask the seller about the previous owner. Even the seller buys it from another person. Most of electronic devices come to Iran from Dubai.
          Also people in Iran normally use the OS in English language, even if their knowledge in English is week! There are not Apple store in the country, but you can easily see New and second-handed iPhones, iPods and other related products which are being sold, although Apple's laptops are somehow rare.

          Last edited 13/04/13 11:11 pm

        They probably picked it up from a pawn shop or similar. No reason to assume that it was stolen if it is being sold there

          And pawn shops never sell dodgy items do they.
          As I said, unless it was bought though normal retail channels, they have no excuse for not at least suspecting that it may have been stolen.
          And I still refer back to the English OS loaded on it.

            Do you have much experience with pawn shops in Iran? How do you know they didn't buy it second-hand from a friend or relative, who might also not have known it was stolen? Sorry, but no. Not everyone who is in possession of stolen goods knows or has any reasonable reason to know it was stolen.

              Yeah, they could have just thought the shop got it off some legit source. I doubt the people pictured in the photos would have bought them if they know it was stolen.

            So are you both (@samc as well) suggesting that nobody should ever purchase anything from a pawn shop because it may have been stolen? Or if you do you forfeit any right to privacy.
            People sell things to pawn shops for a number of reasons, and luxury items like laptops and jewelry are the first things to go when times are tough.

            I'm not aware of how software works in Iran, or if the English language version is common or preferred.

        Sanctions prevent Apple products from being sold legally in Iran. The only way to get them is on the black market.

        When my mother went to sell her car she found out it was (most likely) stolen by the people who sold it to her. There was something about the engine or whatever that gave it away. Can you really blame her for not being car savvy enough to inspect the engine herself and figure it out? She had it checked by a mechanic when she brought it (and serviced several times after) and they missed it.
        If the original owners had of tracked the car down or whatever she would have done the right thing. You can say she should have been more vigilant and less trusting, I'd disagree with you to an extent but it's mostly a fair call, but at the end of the day she's a victim too and wouldn't deserve what the new 'owners' of this laptop are getting.

          Actually a quick check of the VIN and rego details etc. to match all the car details with RTA or VicRoads etc. would have let her know it was stolen before buying it.

            I would assume they did that stuff when she was having it looked at before buying it, but if she screwed up there it was an honest mistake and not the actions of someone trying to buy stolen property. If she had of known there was a chance the car was stolen she just wouldn't have brought it. Aside from the problems it could cause with her career it would also be a financial problem she couldn't afford to deal with.
            At the end of the day if the car was stolen (there's nothing definitive but it seems likely) she was a victim being used by the people who stole the car. That doesn't get her out of trouble but it doesn't make her one of the bad guys in the scenario either. It should at the very least take her out of the sights of anyone plotting revenge.

              You know though, then how on earth did she pass the Pink Slip certification? When the engine and VIN didn't match up, the workshop's supposed to flag it to police.

              Plus, the sales process is meant that the RTA flags the car for next inspection/forces and immediate inspection on transfer. It's supposed to be one of the reasons for the pain in the ass pink slip system!!!!

        I haven't been to Iran, but I've been to a number of bordering countries and I have to say that I agree with this. It's a very common practice for goods to be stolen off tourists and resold locally (DSLRs, lappys, anything high-end), or stolen in Europe and smuggled into these countries (I'm more familiar with this happening to cars than electronics). The people in these countries know the goods are stolen because the asking price is right - most of the citizens couldn't afford the price we pay in the West. The reality is, though, that once your goods end up in one of these black holes, short of kicking in someone's door, you have no chance of getting them back. I therefore feel no pity for the parasites that support this.

        Yes, this could be an innocent family, but it would be one of the only exceptions in my experience.

        Last edited 12/04/13 1:24 pm

          I am familiar with the region and I have been in iran too. despite the fact that in some bordering countries tourists may not feel safe but in iran its not common for their good to be stolen. Second it seemed impossible to me to see a western second hand car in the market, no matter its stolen or not. Customs looks strong to ban suspicious items. I think so. so this issue comes up to me totally accidental.

          there is a big different between Iran and most of it border neighbors. and Iranian cant buy a second hand car because every car importing in Iran have 300% ask and the price would become triple for examples an 20000$ car price in Iran is about 60000$!

        So the moral of the story for you is "never buy anything second hand that isn't from a shop, because if it's at a shop but second hand then it clearly isn't stolen" ?

        What an asshole.

      Maybe not, but its technically still his property. Including its contents.

        The contents aren't necessarily his property, no. If a dog runs into your front yard, it doesn't magically become your dog. Ownership of the copyright on a photo remains with the person who took that photo until it's transferred.

          I think we're in a grey area here. I agree who took the photo owns it, and they have the right to say something about it. But there was no agreement to store the photos on the owners machine and cloud storage, it could be thought of as "Gifted" to him... We're talking about 2 conflicting laws in 2 conflicting nations... I don't think there's going to be any light at the end of this tunnel.

          what if the dog pooped on your front lawn? who owns that? :P

          Ownership of copyright? Are you serious. You now know uk law and Iranian law on this? And then they also probably have separate law for using stolen property...and on top of that neither would recognise the others law either.

          Maybe he shouldn't be posting their pic...but there's no legal reason not to for anyone rational....they have his stolen stuff, in another country....?

            I'm familiar with international copyright law, yes. And no, unknowingly using stolen property isn't illegal in most jurisdictions.

            Yeah, his computer got stolen and is in another country, and yeah, that's shitty, but the people who have it right now aren't the ones responsible, and punishing them by taking their pictures and publishing them online is a dick move that serves no purpose at best, and puts the family at risk from their government at worst.

          Possession is 9/10ths of the law.

          My friends dog kept wondering into a neighbours yard, the neighbour decided to keep it... Police couldn't do shit.

            Did your friend have proof of ownership? Because if they did, police certainly can intervene.

        Edit: Ignore - my browser's refresh failed me.

        Last edited 12/04/13 1:18 pm

      Yea I get that feeling too.

      It's like someone stealing my phone, sold it to a shady person, shady person sells to school kids who want to pick up good gadgets for cheap.

      Then I go make a page exploiting what I can.

      Seems almost illegal to be doing that, like if they found out and contacted the police, caught me then I'd face legal charges dealing with privacy...

      What serious consequences?

        The Iranian government is very much non-representative of its people. There's a fair degree of paranoia, particularly about spies. You might recall there's been some stories about people being either arrested for spying or foreigners kicked out of Iran for spying in the last 5 years. Some of these photos show landmarks, skylines, areas around Iran, as well as the faces of the people involved in taking them. The government there is just paranoid enough to act on that and track the family down and investigate the issue. In Iran, that's a Bad Thing.

          Good point

    "They probably picked it up from a pawn shop or similar."
    Yeah because stuff in a pawn shop is never stolen.

      And? How does that make this family guilty of anything?

        As I've said above, the only way to get Apple products in Iran is through the black market. Sanctions prohibit Apple products being sold legally in Iran. So of course someone in Iran with a MacBook has gone through less-than-reputable channels to obtain it.

          There's a big ethical difference between buying a product from a reseller who's effectively only acted as a middle man between a legal supply chain and Iran, and buying a laptop that you know is stolen. I bought the Galaxy Tab 10.1 when it was banned from sale here but I wouldn't consider that purchase to be grounds for my personal stuff to be shared online, even if it turned out later it was stolen.

          I'm from Iran, for buying an apple product we dont have to go to black markets! in fact apple products are selling widely in Iran and are well known, in Tehran there are more than thousand of store selling apple products and they are every where, I dont know how they import to Iran but I can assure you there are more than what you think, but we dont receive any warranty for them and if they are broke there is nothing we can do. and most of them are brand new actually second hand product are not really popular in Iran no one trust them. but some of the sellers sell second hand products especially when they are clean and with out any scratches, as new one and most of the costumers won't notice that.

        ZJ, it's not that the family are guilty, but the laptop still belongs to the original owner. If the family bought it without knowing it is stolen then they are not guilty of anything, but it still belongs to the dude in London and therefore he has the right to access anything on it. If the Iranian family are caught with it they can't be prosecuted (if they didn't know it was stolen), but they would have to return it. Like others commenting though, I think it would be fairly obvious it was a dodgy laptop so that would make the family culpable or receiving stolen goods, that'll put you in jail in some countries.

          Imagine this hypothetical. You buy a phone from a mate of yours, who tells you it's second hand and he's looking to get rid of it to buy an upgrade. Without any reason to suspect anything is suspect, you buy it and start using it as you normally would. One night you use your phone to take a naked picture of your girlfriend just for your private use, and the next thing you know that picture is on the internet for everyone to see. Turns out the phone was stolen and the original owner still had access to the data.

          Does that seem fair? It's really not. You didn't know the phone was stolen when you bought it. Your mate might not have even known it was stolen when he picked it up. You didn't do anything wrong, but now someone has stolen a private photo you took (which you own the rights to, not them) and shared it with everyone.

          There's no reason in this story to assume this Iranian family knows the laptop is stolen. They've taken personal photos and stored them there, and the original owner has accessed them and put them online for everyone to see, which he doesn't have any legal right to do. Iranians are wonderful people, they're very friendly and accepting, but their government isn't. Having candid photos with the faces of these people and Iranian landmarks or places in the background splashed around online might just be enough for that government to take notice and wonder, in their paranoid way, if this Iranian family might actually be spies. It shouldn't need to be explained why this would be an extremely bad thing to happen to them, and for what? Because they use a laptop they might not even know is stolen? That's not cool.

          You're hung up on the technical side here. The simple matter is even if these people are committing a crime, even if the laptop's original owner has 100% rights to everything on the hard drive and doing all this is 100% fine from a legal standpoint, that doesn't make it automatically ok to publish this stuff.
          Think of it this way, if I find a wallet on the street there's a very specific process for determining what happens next and when it becomes my property. If at the end of that process, when from a technical standpoint it is my wallet, the original owner comes up and asks for it back, do I give it to him? Or do I cite the rules and say tough luck? The rulebook only determines the boundaries. It reflects the furthest I can push right and wrong but it doesn't dictate how I should respond. I'd like to think I would give the wallet back (provided I still had it).
          In the case of the laptop I think no matter what the rules are the author of the Tumblr account is doing something that's at the very least highly questionable.

      In Australia, at least where I live, police regularly check the items of the pawn shop to ensure they're not stolen, plus you have to provide proof of ID when pawning... I don't think you're going to find many (recently) stolen products at a hock shop to be honest.

    Well he could have also set it up so, if by chance, the people taking the pictures don't realise it was stolen they may contact him and give it back.....that's a fairly plausible story.

    The photos show a completely unedited natural state of iranian society which gives us empathy to people threatened constantly by the US. That is the only point of note here. All the legal debate is pointless. If they are endangered by their own govt then thats on the Mullahs, not the Tumblr owner. Its his laptop and he can do what the hell he wants and as it happens, he has done a very good thing.

      They're not his photos, and no he can't do anything he wants with them. Where are people even getting this idea? Owning a container does not give you any automatic ownership over what is inside that container. This is especially true of computers - you don't own Windows or MacOS or Linux, nor do you own most of the software you have. You don't own the Google logo just because you visited their website and downloaded it into your browser cache, and there are plenty of things you're not allowed to do with it just because it's on your hard drive.

        Says who? Says you in this have no idea how other cultures or countries view these situations.

        You talk of a container...lets say we are in a water poor country. if you stole my water bottle..and fill it and I come take it better believe I'm keeping the water.

        You can't quote legal reasons for what he or they are doing...moral...sure go for your life...but arguing what is legal is retarded and pointless.

          It's trivially easy to see what the law is in different countries, cheshirecat. The legal argument is a statement of fact based on what I know about Iranian copyright law, which has changed significantly in the last 5 years, as well as a comparison to our own law in case you thought the same thing was legal here. It's not legal in either country.

          As for your water analogy, if that water has a value and you keep it when you take back your property, you've stolen from the other person in just the same way they stole from you.

          Last edited 12/04/13 4:31 pm

            You are wrong about ownership of the photos. They are his photos, taken with his device (of which he can prove ownership) and the photos are in his possession. Unless you have some other way of proving the family has ownership I would love to hear it. What you are saying is that if you hand someone your camera to take a photo of you, maybe while I holidays, that the person who pressed the button owns the photo?

            Last edited 12/04/13 10:49 pm

              You're mistaken. The owner of a photo is the person who took the photo. This is the case in UK law, Australian law, US law and Iranian law. If you ask someone to take a photo of you while on holidays and then give the photo to you, you are the owner of the photo by verbal agreement (ie. you have engaged them to take the photo on your behalf and transfer it back to you).

              Last edited 13/04/13 6:05 am

    If you've got remote access to your laptop then why don't you send them a message telling them that they're using a stolen laptop and provide a way for them to return at your expense.
    If they refused then they're clearly criminals, otherwise they're just innocent buyer

    No, you own a licence to use that Software, unless you stole it ? Zombie you make alot of strange claims on here that seem to imply some sort of legal knowledge, but in most instances you are incorrect. The power of the internet, type something enough times and you might even convince others you know what you are talking about. Posting the photos is not the right way to tackle this and breaks some privacy laws, but owning stolen property is illegal whether you know it is or not. The arguement that they may not know is ridiculous and bears no legal standing what so ever. You are also making the 'assumption' that they don't know, equally as naive as you seem to think posters accusing them of knwoing they have a stolen laptop are. Strange arguements and overly defensive too. Do you know why there is murder and manslaughter ? Sometimes you don't necessarily mean to kill someone, but you might still do it... the law doesn't saw, "oh, well if you didn't know driving at 80km/h through a school zone could kill someone then it's okay, we'll let you go". Same applies with stolen goods, buy them, use them, you are in breach of the law, no matter what you know of the history of the product. It's pretty black and white and not really open to interpretation. You are correct that the photos should not be made public, they should be handed to authorities if the owner wants the laptop tracked down.

      Sorry, you're wrong. Owning stolen property unknowingly is not illegal in most jurisdictions. Here are some examples:

      - United States (18 USC s. 2315): Whoever receives, possesses, conceals, stores, barters, sells, or disposes of any goods, wares, or merchandise, securities, or money of the value of $5,000 or more, or pledges or accepts as security for a loan any goods, wares, or merchandise, or securities, of the value of $500 or more, which have crossed a State or United States boundary after being stolen, unlawfully converted, or taken, knowing the same to have been stolen, unlawfully converted, or taken; [...]

      - Canada (Criminal Code s. 351 (1)): Every one commits an offence who has in his possession any property or thing or any proceeds of any property or thing knowing that all or part of the property or thing or of the proceeds was obtained by or derived directly or indirectly from (a) the commission in Canada of an offence punishable by indictment; or (b) an act or omission anywhere that, if it had occurred in Canada, would have constituted an offence punishable by indictment.

      - New South Wales (Crime Act s 188,189): Whosoever receives, or disposes of, or attempts to dispose of, any property, the stealing whereof amounts to a serious indictable offence, knowing the same to have been stolen, shall be guilty of a serious indictable offence, and may be indicted, either as an accessory after the fact, or for a substantive offence, and in the latter case whether the principal offender has been previously tried or not, or is amenable to justice or not, and in either case is liable: [...]

      - Other Australian states have the same provision but I won't list them for brevity.

      - United Kingdom (Theft Act ch. 60 s. 22 (1)): A person handles stolen goods if (otherwise than in the course of the stealing) knowing or believing them to be stolen goods he dishonestly receives the goods, or dishonestly undertakes or assists in their retention, removal, disposal or realisation by or for the benefit of another person, or if he arranges to do so.

      The relevant law is provided for you in each case, feel free to look them up and confirm if you like. Would you like me to list more? You seem like you could use the education. This comment in particular is bemusing:

      "You are also making the 'assumption' that they don't know [..]. Strange arguements and overly defensive too."

      I take it you're not familiar with the phrase "ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat" (the burden of proof lies with who declares, not who denies), otherwise known as "innocent until proven guilty" or the presumption of innocence. Many countries, including the US, UK, Australia, members of the European Union and yes, even Iran, have the presumption of innocence as a foundational element of their justice system. Since I'm sure you'll question it, you can consult the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Article 37, "Innocence is to be presumed, and no one is to be held guilty of a charge unless his or her guilt has been established by a competent court."

    I don't understand why the original owner has not tried to contact the new owner and sort the problem somehow out. They also can go to Police and check the seller.

    The guy who lost his laptop and did the blog has been contacted by the horrified family - who didn't steal it - and they have apologized and offered to get the Mac back to him. I suspect they're pretty worried about having their photos on the net when they live under an oppressive regime and he's removed them.

    You should do the same.

    Pretty cool if this is how it turned out. They are probably more worried that someone in Tehran will know they have a laptop worth more than most peoples houses and rob them in the middle of the night!

    I find it more interested to know the path the laptop takes from being stolen to ending up in that part of the world.

      It turned out even more interesting than that. From the Tumblr page;

      Then one of the people in the photos contacted me and asked me to remove the pictures. They were very upset.
      I could understand why.
      The people shown on the blog site are not thieves.
      The safety and well being of private individuals is more important than any possession, although I still miss my laptop I do not wish ill on anyone.

      Then a little later
      The innocent new owners of my laptop have been in touch and are mortified about the story and are keen to return the laptop.
      Given the huge error of judgement on my part in sharing the story and failing to respect their privacy I have asked them to keep it by means of an apology.

      @loganbooker @lukehopewell As Cody suggested above, perhaps the pics should be removed from this article and the story updated.

      Last edited 13/04/13 12:04 am

        Good for you to find your laptop finally but poor them since all their personal photos have seen on public and their privacy is broken & not been respected now... sometimes apology can do nothing!

        Common decency finally prevails. The people who dusted off their pitchforks and declared this family as criminals who deserved this treatment should be ashamed of themselves. @loganbooker @lukehopewell, I second SmurfyDog's request, please take down the photos and update the article.

      I am iranian student in europe. I assure you an apartment in Tehran is more expensive than 90% of EU capitals. Just imagine returning back to my country and finding a place is a nightmare for me. I would rather find a shelter in EU than go back to Tehran :)

    The price of property, specially in that part of Tehran isn't less than an equivalent property in Australia. Moreover, it is safe out there more than you think and having laptops and high-end mobile phones is very common.
    ُSome Photos:[email protected]/8632394561/in/photostream/
    Take a tour in a computer shopping center in Tehran :

    Instead of webcam, I'm going to install a sarin gas module.

    You're all wrong; this kind of exposure (the story pointing out the tumblr -and the tumblr) is exactly what needs to be made light of for people in these countries where stolen goods are sold in. They are the demand driving the suppliers to steal. Perhaps they should know that what they're asking for is causing this kind of grief and acts outside the accordance of their own belief system. These are assumedly good muslim people and if you look at investing practices of muslims they avoid companies that deal in things their religion forbids such as alcohol. Perhaps they could extend this aspect of their mentality to other things they purchase.

      Stolen goods isn't really a typical supply and demand market. Theft of things like laptops and such is driven more by necessity (for money to pay for food/rent/drugs) than anything else. Exposing the end point makes no difference, there will always be a market and there will always be fences who buy stolen goods from the thieves that take them. Even if there weren't, the thieves would just sell it themselves.

    So your average Iranian muslim buying goods they know are stolen (being schooled by this very article, for example) won't change their habits even though they know they're putting money into the pockets of criminals? Like other commentors stated, Apple products aren't legally sold in Iran so they know exactly what they're doing. Funny how a little shame is such a hard thing to put these people through, so says westerners that are all for free 'information' of all kinds when it suits their taste and fancy. I'm so glad we're striving to save them from our freedom and the fallout that surrounds it. Such noble little people, they are, and it's our duty to keep them safe and untouched by the evil of their complicity. My point was that at least for those that are religious to any degree they should know they're hypocrites for sating their apple lust. Lol at black market goods not being driven by supply/demand, too. Would you steal things you knew you couldn't sell?

      I looked for something worth replying to in your rant, but all I could find was hyperbole and sarcasm. If you actually have a point that makes sense, I'll be happy to address it if you can find it in yourself to present it in a rational way, sans dripping nonsense like "such noble little people" and "the evil of their complicity".

    Talking about protecting your laptop from theft. Watch this video of how a hacker got his laptop back after it was stolen. Also just to comment on those photos of the Iranian incident above, seems to me the US Govt and certain media groups like to BS to the western sheeple about how life is tough in the Iranian regime. Judging from those photos it seems to me that they look like they are enjoying life, sightseeing, playing games etc, they seem happy and content. The story we all seem to get from Western media and the US Govt is one of dread, sorrow, despair, suspicion, repression and that the people live in poverty and hardship. These photos seem to reflect a life far from those falsehoods. To me they seem to be doing normal activities that most of us enjoy daily.

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