I’m a system administrator for a large state agency. That means a few thousand computers; Macs and PCs; many of them are notebooks.
While keeping Windows running is perhaps our biggest problem, high on the list is computers that are lost or stolen. Many employees keep sensitive data on their computers so it’s important to have a way to encrypt and protect data. What about average, everyday Mac folks like you and me? Is there anything that can help us keep data safe, maybe even notify is if our Mac is stolen? Yes.
It’s one thing to keep your computer from being lost or stolen in the first place. It’s something else to track it down once it’s gone.
Proper precautions may keep the horse safely locked up in the barn, but once it’s gone, getting that gold studded saddle back might be an effort. What Mac users need is something to go undercover and phone home when all seems lost.
That brings me to Undercover, a handy Mac utility that doesn’t do anything until you need it to.
Where’s My Mac?
Apple has a very neat feature in MobileMe which takes advantage of your iPhone’s ability to know where it is via GPS. The Find My iPhone feature lets you go to a browser, log into MobileMe, and find your iPhone.
The feature tracks your iPhone to within a few meters or blocks (YMMV) and can issue alerts, or, with the Remote Wipe utility, delete everything on the phone.
What about your Mac? Laptops and notebooks get stolen or lost quite often. Is there a way to have your Mac phone home and provide a location?
The answer to that question, other than duh, is, well, yes. Undercover is a Mac utility which sits on your Mac and does nothing. Until it gets lost or stolen.
A few years ago, Mac360 ran a couple of tests with the early version of Undercover. Part 1 was the initial setup, and Part 2 was the actual theft of the Mac (simulated, of course). The basic premise of Undercover hasn’t changed, though some features are vastly improved.
Most Macs that get lost or stolen these days are the MacBook and MacBook Pro. Apple sells more notebooks than desktops these days, and notebooks get carried out the door easier than an iMac.
We may not have thought about it, but all those new Mac notebooks have a few things in common. They all come with an iSight camera built in. They all come with wireless connectivity.
Undercover can use WiFi positioning to locate your Mac (which assumes it’s on and functioning in your thief’s home or wherever). The camera comes in handy, too, because Undercover can send snapshots of whatever is sitting in front of your Mac.
Of added benefit is the screen capture technology which takes a snapshot of the Mac’s screen which can be used to help identify the thief.
What if your Mac’s thief is smart enough to not connect the Mac to a network and puts a piece of tape over the iSight camera? It’s time for Plan B.
Undercover then simulates a hardware failure, and darkens the screen so it’s unusable, whether or not the Mac is online. If the thief gets frustrated and tries to sell the Mac or take it in for repairs, Plan B, Addendum A, takes place.
Your Mac screams bloody murder with a full screen message which alerts the purchaser (or, a patient thief) that the Mac has been stolen, cannot be used, and must be returned. Pretty cool, huh?