Your Mac can be the center of your life, with all of your pictures, music, movies, and more stored inside. What would happen if you Mac was stolen? Would it even be possible to get it back?
This is where Undercover from Orbicule steps in. This application hides deep inside your Mac and waits until your the computer gets listed as stolen. If the Mac goes back online, it will tell Orbicule’s headquarters it’s IP address, which can be used to find the computer’s location.
This review will take an in-depth look at Undercover, explain how tracking works, and also outline a few other solutions available.
Setting up Undercover is easy. Simply download the software from Orbicule’s website, install and reboot. To make sure the thieves don’t catch on, I would recommend that you remove all traces of Undercover from your system.
That’s it! Your Mac is now “lojacked” should it ever become lost or stolen.
Tracking Your Mac
If your Mac disappears you need to fill out a theft form on their website, with your Undercover ID code, to let them know to listen out for any communication from your computer.
By using both Skyhook Wireless triangulation and the IP address of your machine, Orbicule can find out where your Mac is. Orbicule also handles the police business, so you don’t have to mediate between the government and Undercover’s headquarters. Undercover is also able to take screenshots to help find out more information about the suspect, and use the built in iSight camera to snap a picture of nasty thief in question.
In some cases everything won’t go to plan, your Mac may not show up online. In that case, after a predetermined timeframe, Undercover will begin to simulate a hardware failure, causing the screen to get darker and darker.
This may cause the person who stole your Mac to take it to an Apple Store or other repair shop, like a Best Buy. If the Mac shows up in such a location, it will begin to scream “This is a stolen computer!” displaying contact information clearly on the screen.
To help prevent the person who now has your Mac from wiping the drive and deleting the Undercover software, you should enable the EFI Firmware password. This will require a password to boot your Mac into an external hard disk or DVD disc.
For Undercover to work to it’s fullest potential, you need to setup a “dummy account” on your computer so the thief can access the Internet. To do this, go into System Preferences > Accounts and add an Account. By leaving a dummy account that doesn’t require a password to log onto, you can keep your data safe.
For extra security, you can enable FileVault encryption for your personal account. You can do this by going to System Preferences > Security > FileVault. This will encrypt all of the data in your Home folder with AES 128 Bit encryption.
While this is all well and good, FileVault can cause system wide slow-downs and has been known to have its hiccups; causing loss of data and other major problems. Also, if you forget your password, there is no way to recover your files.
Undercover for iPhone/iPod Touch
While your Mac is generally not something you will just leave in a coffee shop, your iPhone is at a higher risk of being lost or pick-pocketed. For that reason, Orbicule developed an iPhone version of their Undercover software. Disguising itself as a game, it is able to produce GPS or WiFi triangulation coordinates that are uploaded to their site: retrievemyiphone.com.
They also provide a free Found application which also sends the phone’s location to the website. This is useful if the person who finds your phone is a slightly more decent citizen, and less of a crook.
Again, should your phone be lost or stolen, Orbicule will handle all of the police business once a report is filed with them.
However, because the app is part of Apple’s App Store, it must adhere to certain guidelines. The main limitation is that it cannot run in the background and requires the thief to actually open the application for it’s location to be updated.
There are a few other options for tracking a stolen Mac. Computrace LoJack for Laptops offers a similar tracking service but does not offer some of the cooler features of Undercover (such as iSight support and Skyhook Wireless location system).
They do offer a Premium Edition that includes the option to remotely delete sensitive data, along with a service guarantee of up to $1000. However they only offer US, Canada, UK and Australia as “Recovery Territories” while Undercover does not have such restrictions. Also, while LoJack is $39/$59 (premium) it is only a one year term. Undercover’s license is for life, with unlimited upgrades and transfers between computers.
GadgetTrak’s MacTrack also offers a similar tracking service. It utilizes Skyhook Wifi triangulation and iSight capturing. They also have relationships with law enforcement, several successful recovery stories and a free iPhone app. GadgetTrak even have a private investigator license and forensic certifications!
Orbicule’s service is a great solution, providing advanced features such as iSight capturing, WiFi triangulation and network positioning, to find and arrest that pesky thief. They also offer a team of recovery personnel to help work with officials around the world. Orbicule is a one time fee of $49, $39 for students and even cheaper for schools and businesses who need to purchase bulk licenses. Their iPhone version is $5.99.
Undercover has made it possible for them to recover 96% of all of the laptops stolen. In the rare case your Mac isn’t recovered, they have a money back guarantee where they will refund the cost of the software.
Orbicule seems like a great option to track your Mac and iPhone. What do you guys use to keep your computer safe? Feel free to let me know in the comments!