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Thief Steals Researcher's Laptop But Returns Data

A thief stole a laptop computer belonging to a professor at Umeå University in Sweden. The computer contained 10 years of research which he had not bothered to back up. A few days later, he received a USB flash drive in an envelope containing his data:

About a week after the theft, the professor returned home to find an envelope containing a USB memory stick which had been taken along with the computer.

The professor was shocked to discover the thief had copied all the documents and personal files from his laptop to the memory storage device, a process which likely took hours.

All things considered, the professor is delighted at the outcome, despite the loss of his computer. He hopes, however, that other thieves can learn to be as compassionate. via Glenn Reynolds | Photo by Flickr user Ambuj Saxena used under Creative Commons license

I think the key word is "intelligent" and not "compassionate". If the theif understood the importance of the data, he'd want to return it because he could guess that some company is shelling money out for that research, and an investigation could happen should it not be returned.
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10 years of research that wasn't backed up??

He DESERVED to lose it all...

(Here in the land of CSI, Law and Order and Dragnet, the very fact that the thief knew how valuable this data was to the professor probably means that its someone he KNOWS.)
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Seriously, the ONLY lesson learned here is back up your files. You, reading this: do your backups now. Don't have backups? Get something like Mozy, which makes it so trivially easy it's actually harder to NOT have things backed-up. (Not an employee, just a happy customer.)
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Degree common sense.

Yup, someone who knows him did it, and was probably feeling a little guilty. Most thieves could care less.
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I'd say that the person who stole it for sure knows the guy, except that if I were to ever turn to thievery for money, and I came across something like a dissertation (they're pretty easy to figure out what they are...), I would definitely send a USB drive with the file on it to the owner of the computer, just in case it wasn't backed up.

Then again, I live within the academic community and know the value of files like that. Some people might not. I think Gauldar also has a point about a corporation possibly launching an investigation.
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Ditto everyone who is wondering why the prof didn't have his ten years worth of data backed up. Brilliant. The thief should have wiped it and moved on. I'm also pretty sure this was an inside job as well.
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And the professor KNOWS his 10 years worth of data hasn't been tampered with how?

No way to run DIFF against known good copies or backups.

Maybe the whole purpose of stealing the laptop was to f*ck up the research data.
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This reminds me of a story I read about Americans living somewhere in Africa - if a pickpocket stole your wallet, you could expect it to be tossed into your compound a few days later (empty of cash, but with all your hard-to-replace identification). The pickpocket viewed the victim not like a hunter views a deer, but like a farmer views a dairy cow.
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@John Farrier: I have to call you out. That was a misleading summary of the story, now leading to rampant speculation in the comments section.

His bag was stolen and he was upset over the loss of a calendar (perhaps a journal of sorts) that he had been keeping the past 10 years. That, along with the bag was returned soon after. The usb later returned contained personal documents and files, which he admitted to being bad at backing up, but it was NOT "10 years of research."
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