On Monday we “stole” a Mac to see what happens during a real world test of Undercover; the slick Mac application that tracks your Mac after it’s gone. There’s good news and bad news.
Review: Undercover sits on your Mac and quietly phones home until that day when your Mac gets pilfered, lifted, stolen, swiped, ripped off, goes MIA.
iBook, PowerBook, MacBook Pro, iMac, PowerMac; Undercover doesn’t care. It waits until something bad happens and then quietly takes steps to get your Mac back.
Early this week we set up a test theft to see how Undercover would work.
The test was simple. Install Undercover, notify Orbicule that it had been stolen, wait to see what happened.
Plan A was simple, too. Undercover began sending information back to Orbicule (and to authorities, as needed) about the Mac’s whereabouts; IP address, router address, etc.
It would take a slick thief to find Undercover on a Mac, but once it’s connected to a network, Undercover phones home.
If there’s a camera connected to the Mac (as in a new iMac or MacBook Pro, and for the PowerBook in our test), even better. Guess what?
Undercover takes photos of the Mac’s desktop and uses iSight to take photos of the person using the Mac.
The photos are sent back to Oribcule (and authorities as needed).
That’s all well and good, but what if the stolen Mac (in this case, a PowerBook) doesn’t get connected to the internet? That’s called Plan B.
Everyone should have a Plan B and Undercover is no exception. All the cool high tech stuff doesn’t do any good if it can’t connect to the internet, right?
Wrong. Plan B has a few steps which Mac thieves will find annoying and may even prevent a few thefts in the first place.
First, Plan B slowly darkens the Mac’s screen. First, gray, as if the screen was about to sleep. Then darker, and darker. Finally, black. No mouse cursor. No nothing. Black, as in where Firefly went after every job.
Second, Plan B pops a message up on the screen which says whatever you want it to say. In this case it was a loud, “Help. I am a stolen Macintosh… blah blah!”
Loud? Yes, not only does the text of your fear inspiring message show up on screen, the Mac “reads” the message in a loud, audible voice. Top volume.
Even if the volume was on mute and the audio volume slider bar down to the bottom, the message is loud and clear (Ron heard the the message at 2:00 AM after he stole his own PowerBook).
The message is repeated every so many minutes, both in text on the screen, and in audio form.
Even if the thief shuts the Mac off, the next time it comes on, it repeats the same routine. Dark screen. No keyboard or mouse control. Message on screen. Message in your ear. Loud.
Finally, after a predetermined time, Undercover makes your Mac look like it’s dead.
Should the Mac show up in a computer repair shop, the message will come on again, warning the repair technician that it’s been stolen, and gives a telephone number to call.
Your quiet, unassuming little Mac packs a punch.
With Undercover, it can track IP addresses (wireless or hard connection), router addresses, take snapshots of the screen and, if there’s a camera attached, take snapshots of the thief.
Then, your Mac gets noisy and cuts off control from the keyboard and mouse all the while yelling bloody murder. About the only thing it doesn’t do is call you on the phone, and a plug in to Skype or iChat AV might make that possible.
Hmmm. Sounds like a new feature.
Our test spanned a full five days, four of which Ron had no control over the PowerBook other than to drop a hand towel over the camera while in pajamas.
Had the Mac been stolen, the resulting IP addresses would have made a location trace possible. Photos from the iSight camera would have aided in prosecution. And Undercover would have made it difficult for a thief to use the Mac.
There are other precautions a Mac user can take to secure a Mac and prevent data from being stolen. Undercover is one that works.