Securing Your Mac With Airlock

Out of the box, your Mac is a relatively secure piece of equipment. It comes with a firewall, is more-or-less immune to viruses, and can be locked in a number of different ways. Airlock is a new piece of software that aims to add an extra level of security, in conjunction with an iPhone or iPod touch.

Whenever your phone moves a certain distance away from your computer, Airlock can automatically lock the screen. When you return, your Mac unlocks automatically. It’s a very simple idea, but one that could prove useful in many different circumstances.

Setup and Connection

Setting up Airlock is relatively simple. After downloading and installing the System Preference pane, you’ll be presented with something that looks like the following:

Installing Airlock

Installing Airlock

After running the installer, you’ll then need to connect an iPhone or iPod touch. This requires that you enable bluetooth on your device, then run the “Select iPhone” wizard to set up the connection.

Be sure that whilst the setup process is running, you do not close the Bluetooth preferences on your iPhone. If you navigate away from this window, the software won’t be able to find your device.

Selecting the iPhone

Selecting the iPhone

Locking and Unlocking

The main process of locking and unlocking your computer works remarkably well. The first option to configure is the “Activation Range”:

Activation Range

Activation Range

The program will represent your iPhone’s current distance with a small blue dot, and you can adjust the sensitivity of the app with a simple slider. I’m thoroughly impressed with this piece of interface work – it’s a great way to visually represent how changing the setting will alter how the software works.

Now, when you move away from the computer (with your iPhone), the screen will “lock”, and adjust to something like the following:

A Locked Screen

A Locked Screen

From this point, there are two ways to bring back the desktop:

  1. Bring your iPhone/iPod touch back into range
  2. Enter your user password

The system is fairly secure, and comprehensively locks your Mac’s screen down. It’s wise to enable the “manual login” option, so that you can still access your computer if you’ve misplaced your iPhone or your battery dies.

Preferences & Actions

Various preferences are available to further customise how the software works. Two different lists allow you to specify certain applications to run when your iPhone either comes into, or goes out of, range. This may sound simple, but opens up interesting possibilities for your Mac to automatically perform certain operations when you come back from a stint away. It could open Mail and Twitter, for instance. Equally, you could use it to run a script that pauses iTunes when walking away, resuming again when you return.

Actions

Actions

Advanced preferences contain the option to adjust how often your Mac checks for an iPhone’s presence. The more responsive the setting, the more battery life the application will drain. It’s interesting to have this set high when testing the application out, but would be sensible to decrease it when using the software day-to-day.

Areas for Improvement

Airlock works with Bluetooth, as does my Apple keyboard, and I found a few problems with compatibility between the two devices. Occasionally, my keyboard would disconnect and reconnect when moving back and forth. In addition, the software seemed to turn bluetooth on and off automatically from time to time.

Other than this, I found the system to work well and reliably most of the time.

An Alternative for Non-iPhone Users

One alternative solution for those without an iPod touch/iPhone is Salling Clicker, which is capable of running scripts based on proximity to any Bluetooth mobile phone. I found this very useful before purchasing an iPhone, and it’s an application that I would certainly recommend taking a look at.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a novel way to add proximity based actions and security to your Mac, Airlock is definitely the way to go. It’s easy to set up, works seamlessly with your iPod touch/iPhone, and feels like a reliable solution. You’ll love the “radar” interface for adjusting the sensitivity of the app.

There are a few teething problems – and you may find minor incompatibilities with other Bluetooth devices – but I would expect these to be ironed out in future releases. Airlock is still young!

Feel free to let us know your thoughts in the comments. Is this something that interests you, or are you happy with a time-based screensaver lock?


  • http://drudoo.com Drudoo

    This is really one of the coolest and most usefull mac+iphoen programs out! bought it last week and love it! :D

  • http://twitter.com/sulcalibur Sulcalibur

    This looks very interesting, especially for me using my personal MacBook at work.

    • http://twitter.com/sulcalibur Sulcalibur

      I ended up buying this. The price is too tempting for me, and like I mentioned above, it’s ideal for me at work.

      Thanks for showing this :)

    • Ali

      Great things you’ve always shared with us. Just keep writing this kind of posts.The time which was wasted in traveling for tuition now it can be used for studies.Thanks
      צלם חתונות
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  • Simon

    I use Proximity and some self made applescripts to do practically the same thing. I used some of the scripts found here: http://j.mp/7WuA0C

  • http://itolmach.com Ivan Tolmachev

    That is a nice feature, although I wonder if it will run my iphone’s battery low quicker..?

    • Nathaniel

      It uses the bluetooth feature of the iphone that doesn’t increase power usage much.

  • http://www.squareplanit.com Cameron

    It definitely needs some tweaking, but overall it’s a great app! I bought it last week, and I am very impressed! It’s very innovative, and I look forward to future releases!

  • Dennis

    Great app, smart concept..

  • Mike Kemp

    Note to users – beware Exposè trickery. If you have windows open underneath a Airlocked computer, using the Expose keycommands will let you view them.

  • uF

    Well, a year before I thought of coding an app like this, guess someone else was faster than me and the price is very moderate as well, kudos.

  • http://alf.ikikata.org Alf

    Been giving it a spin for about a week now, and even setting the range way up, it still locks up my computer from time to time even while i’m in front of it. :(

    But I live in an apartment, and as such I fear that may something “bluetoothish” is affecting my results. I donno.

    I would have loved a wifi version for the iphone with a “slide to unlock desktop”.

    my 2 cents

  • http://www.cuby.co.nr Henry Bennett

    Wow that looks very clever! I’ll have to give this a go some time.

  • clode

    Wow very nice software

  • http://dekz.net Jacob

    I like someone else previously mentioned have been using Proximity over Airlock (a lot better and free). I then use an apple script to run the app MacLock when my Iphone is out of range. Works well and never locks when I’m in front of my screen (but sometimes I do forget to turn it off then I take my laptop away from my phone :P)

  • Skip

    It immediately locked me out, and wouldn’t let me in no matter what I tried. The manual login didn’t come up. The only way that I was able to get in (to delete the freakin’ app) was to ssh in from a co-worker’s machine.

    …very disappointed.

  • RJHBookLinux

    Proximity is free, has been around for quite sometime, works flawlessly with iphone, and does everything this does? Where is the love for the Proximity goodness???

  • Dave

    Airlock isn’t working for me and I’ve sent two inquiries to them asking for assistance. No response yet, after 24 hours. It would be nice to receive a reply or acknowledgement, even if they can’t help me quickly.

    • joe

      Same here, it’s not working and i tried everything. No response from the site either. Any response would be nice.

  • Todd

    I tried to use it too, and sent them an email as well with a number of questions. I think it’s a fun idea, but I deleted it. Thanks for nothing!

  • Pingback: Mac absichern / automatisch sperren mit Airlock + iPhone - Mac OS / Linux

  • http://justinhileman.info/blog justin hileman

    Airlock would be cool if it actually locked your computer.

    Unfortunately it doesn’t. I wouldn’t recommend relying on it to actually secure anything…

  • http://justinhileman.info/blog justin hileman

    Apparently HTML isn’t allowed in comments here :)

    Here’s the link that should have gone with the last one:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bobthecow/4175339064/

  • http://www.traviscannon.com TravelerTC

    Looks very cool! Anyone know if it works with multiple iPhones and multiple user accounts on one Mac? I emailed The M.H.A, but haven’t got a response yet.

  • http://digitalpure.com David McDougal

    I have been using this off and on (more off then on) for the last 4-6 weeks and have to say that it is something that I will not be using anymore. I have had issues where the phone is 4inches from the computer and the proximity kicks on. Then when you tell it to ignore, and it suddenly starts working again you get interupted again. I have read on a number of forums that many issues are present, just like mine.

    I am sure that apps like this will continue to mature, and I really want them to work. I am a freelancer, and so I spend alot of time in internet cafes, and coffee shops. If I get up to grab a cup of coffee then I would like my computer to lock when I walk away.

    I will give proximity a try as suggested in the comments. I just wanted to give my two cents.

  • Daniel Dobyns

    Tried Airlock out and was disappointed. Very inaccurate tracking of actual phone proximity, one second it was very close, then 3 seconds later it showed my phone as almost out of range. Then sitting with phone in pocket, and laptop on my lap, it told me my phone went out of range and wouldn’t change its mind. Needs a lot of tweaking and increased accuracy before this can be used as any sort of security.

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  • http://www.electricgriddlereviews.net/ griddle

    Oh man, I did not know that Airlock can automatically lock the screen whenever my phone moves away from my computer – I’m definitely going to keep the mac more secure and search for more useful tips on this cool website.

  • Matt B

    Buyer beware. I used Airlock and the application would sometimes not recognize my phone instantly. I would enter my password to unlock the machine. Unfortunately in doing this it disables the screensaver completely! Left the office for the weekend and the screensaver never activated causing the image I had up to be burned into my LCD.

    Bad product and I would not recommend it.

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    Pretty cool software. It adds another nice level of security to a Mac. When I get my Mac, I’ll add it. Thanks for the heads up.

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    Airlock is a very usefull tool. The big pity is that is not working in my Ipad

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