The last FBI report says over 600,000 laptops were stolen in 2004. Desktops get stolen, too.
97-percent of stolen computes never get recovered. What can you do? Anti-theft software doesn’t work.
Why do I say that? Because software won’t prevent the Mac from being stolen in the first place. But it may help to get it back. When you think about it, there’s really only two issues regarding a stolen computer.
First, how do you prevent it from getting stolen in the first place? Locks? Chains? Armed guards? Hungry dogs on chains?
Keeping your Mac, laptop or desktop, from getting stolen is step one, and there are many solutions. Truly, your mileage may vary.
Second, once your Mac is stolen (or lost), what do you do? What can you do ahead of time to make sure your Mac comes back to you?
Short of chains and armed guards, securing your Mac has many choices. Once, it’s gone, the choices are fewer.
I came across an interesting Mac application called Undercover which helps get your Mac back.
If 97-percent of all stolen computers don’t come back, it’s nice to know you have a chance that’s better than one out of 32 or so.
Undercover is an application that resides on your Mac. It’s always running. If your Mac gets stolen and ever goes online again, Undercover phones home.
That’s the simple approach, though there’s more going on than that.
Once you install Undercover, you get a unique ID for your Mac. Don’t lose the code.
If your stolen Mac goes online, you notify Undercover and they add the code to their database of stolen Macs.
The next time your stolen Mac goes online, Undercover phones home to find out it’s been stolen (you knew it, but your Mac didn’t).
Once Undercover realizes your Mac is stolen, it starts to work. The first step is to send network information and screenshots of your stolen Mac.
Getting the network information lets authorities, including ISPs, to help track down your stolen Mac. Screen snapshots tell authorities, and you, what the thief is up to.
What happens if your stolen Mac doesn’t get connected to the internet? It could happen.
That’s what Undercover calls Plan B. Undercover then simulates a hardware failure, and makes parts of the Mac screen unusable.
Then it puts up Mac OS X system messages about a hardware failure. If the computer goes in for repair, that opens up another chance to track it down. If it gets sold, same thing.
Eventually, Undercover will show a full-screen message alert that the Mac has been stolen.
Then the fun begins. The Mac starts shouting, using the highest volume level and using built-in OS X text-to-speech, “I’ve Been Stolen. Help Me!” Or something like that.
Cool. But will all that effort get your Mac back? Maybe. A smart thief will know not to plug in a stolen Mac to the internet, would probably check the HD first, then wipe the drive and start over. Or not.
Most thieves are not too smart and they’re just copping your Mac to make a quick buck. Undercover just adds another level of potential to get your Mac back.
I like that. If only one of about 32 stolen computers gets returned, then the $30 Undercover application is cheap money, if I can improve my chances.
Why? Because our Macs are truly a digital hub. That’s where all my music is. And my photos. And all my files. And my email. And Quicken. Uh oh. The company is Orbicule. Click Here for the details on Undercover.
Tera Jean Patricks
Bambi, this is a good find. I noticed that Undercover is a universal binary, so it’ll already run on the new Intel Macs. I’d hate to lose a new MacBook Pro.
One of my co-workers had her laptop stolen from her cubicle. She just walked from one end of the office to the other, walked back, and it was gone. Forever. Something like this would have been nice.
Jack D. Miller
This seems to be an elegant solution to an age old problem. I guess there’s no real (meaning; I can afford it) way to prevent theft entirely, but this is like a car alarm that phones home and shuts down. Nice.