Hidden: Track and Recover Your Stolen Mac

Your Mac is a serious investment. You paid upwards of $1,000 for it, keep sensitive information on it and maybe even depend on it to make a living. Given all of this, would you be willing to pay $20 to protect it?

Today we’ll look at Hidden, a useful tool for tracking the location of your Mac in the unfortunate case of a theft. According to the Hidden developers, “the FBI reports that 97% of stolen computers are never recovered.” Will you be prepared if it happens to you?

How Hidden Protects Your Mac

If your Mac is ever stolen, do you have a way to find it? Hidden allows you to not only locate your computer, but take a photo of who is using it and grab screenshots of what the thief is doing.

screenshot

Hidden Features

If you doubt the legitimacy of your ability to recover your Mac even with this information, consider the case of an Apple employee in 2008 who used “Back to My Mac”, a MobileMe service, to photograph the thief in possession of her computer and eventually recover her lost property (source). Also consider the fact that MobileMe is $99/year.

Getting Started

To begin, you’ll first need to stop by the Hidden website and purchase a license. You then download a copy of Hidden and walk through the typical Mac installer. It might be helpful here to note that your permissions have to be in order for the installation to run properly, if the installation fails, open Disk Utility and click “repair permissions.”

After you have successfully installed Hidden, log in to the website to see if everything is working properly. As you can see in the screenshot below, the site will show you a list of the computers you have registered.

screenshot

Hidden Interface

There’s a color coding system that tells you what phase you’re in. If you’re installation is “OK” then you should be all set and prepared for the worst.

As odd as it sounds to say, hopefully you’ll never have to use the application. Think of it as more of an insurance policy than a fun new toy that you get to play with.

To Catch a Thief

If your computer is ever stolen, sign on to the hidden website and click the “edit device” button in the image above. Here you can set the status of your computer to Not Stolen, Test Mode, or Stolen. Test Mode will allow you to try out all the features and see if everything is functioning properly. In Stolen mode, Hidden will take a new sample every ten minutes.

screenshot

Changing Your Status

Back at the main screen, your color bar should now be updated to reflect that you’re in test mode. From here click the “View Updates” button to see the information about your Mac.

screenshot

Test Mode

After a few minutes of being in test mode, hidden will spring into action. If you or the thief is particularly observant, you’ll catch the little light on your camera turn on and off. By the time you notice though it’s too late, you’ve been caught!

Under your updates you should now see a new “packet” of information regarding your thief and the location of your Mac.

screenshot

Test Mode

The highlighted area above shows you two images. The first is a screenshot of what is currently on your Mac’s screen. The second is the picture taken with your Mac’s built-in iSight. Click on either of these to see a larger preview.

Tracking Your Mac

If your Mac is currently connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi, you should see a map of its approximate location in your control panel. This location should be shared with your local authorities and is not provided so you can play vigilante and attempt to get your Mac back alone. Though if you’re crazy enough to try I do want to hear the story!

screenshot

Test Mode

If there is no map, the area likely either lacks coverage or the computer simply isn’t on a Wi-Fi network.

Other Information

To see more information about where you Mac is currently located, click on a packet. What you should see here is a huge pile of numbers that you probably won’t understand in the slightest.

screenshot

Test Mode

The reason for the complicated nature of the data is that your Mac doesn’t come equipped with a GPS tracking device. Instead, Hidden is forced to rely on three primary sources of information: your Public IP, traceroute and ifconfig.

The developers quick explanation of this info is as follows: “The Public IP address is the computer’s footprint on the Internet, the traceroute shows how a packet of data is routed from your stolen computer to the web servers at Google.com and the ifconfig displays the local network environment of your stolen computer.”

Essentially, you just need to provide this information to the police so they can work with the indicated ISP to track down the thief. With an IP address in hand, the ISP should be able to provide the police with an address.

An Alternative Solution

If you’re looking for a free way to accomplish much of the same functionality, check out a dynamic DNS service like DynDNS.

screenshot

Test Mode

DynDNS is more for the techie types who know their way around complex network jargon, but it will let you access your machine remotely and even grab the IP to provide to the police.

Closing Thoughts

If you’re at all worried about robbery in your neighborhood or the dependability of the “friends” you invite into your house, I highly recommend spending the $20. Hidden is easy to use and can really provide the extra evidence needed to get your Mac back. You’ll no doubt still have plenty of headaches actually trying to get your Mac returned, but without a service like this, you can almost guarantee that you’ll never see it again.

Looking for a few other options? Check out our review of Undercover, a similar app, or read through our Vital Tips for Securing Your New Mac!

Leave a comment below and let us know what you think of Hidden. Also share any ideas or alternative solutions for tracking a stolen Mac!


Summary

Hidden allows you to track the location of your Mac, take screenshots of what it's currently doing, and take snapshots with the built-in camera in the event that your Mac is stolen. The app works just as advertised and is definitely worth $20 if it leads to the recovery of your stolen computer!

9
  • Michael C.

    How would this work if your harddrive were wiped and/or replaced? I mean is it that easy to break the OSX password (provided it isn’t like “love” or something)?

    Just curious.

    • http://sair.am/ Sairam Kunala

      Undercover fixes that problem . Check out – http://www.orbicule.com/undercover/mac/

      • Marty

        so does hidden? Just set a firmware password. Oribcule doesn’t have special protection against a thief wiping the hard drive

  • Ricky C.

    Prey Project, a free alternative. I’ve never tried it myself so I can’t vouch for it.

  • Ricky C.

    Woaps, I forgot to attach a link. http://preyproject.com/

  • http://butenas.com Ignas

    Nice tool. Just one question to the author. Why in one pic serial is covered and in other we see your serial? :)

    • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

      Whoops, you caught me. Now you know my serial… all is surely lost. :)

  • Willowpje

    If a thief were to open my MacBook and fail to unlock it, would the program also start working? Meaning, would I get images on the website before unlocking? It’s most likely that a hard drive will be wiped/replaced, but if they make the mistake of trying to log in first, this could work very well indeed.

  • http://masnun.com maSnun

    What if there’s no internet connection ? Like there’s no WiFi ? :D

  • smrht

    I was looking for this kind of software, love it how easy it is.

    Just have ordered it, it works great. I live in the Netherlands, Amsterdam.

    Love the screenshot and the printscreen.

  • Ormosk

    (33.65700430060326, -112.09979295730591)

  • http://tmsm.tumblr.com Tim Long

    Another good software for this is called Undercover.

    Link: http://www.orbicule.com/undercover/

  • nolose

    auto Hacking?

  • http://www.infrasoundkids.com L1

    Why are all the roads in America straight? Can you not turn corners properly?

  • http://omniation.com Dan Palmer

    I use Hidden, mainly because it is cheaper than Undercover and does the same thing. I have never had to use it, but it looks like a good service. Also tricky to erase the hard drive if you have a firmware password. You would actually need to put the drive in another computer as you can’t even boot from another OS without the firmware password.

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  • tz

    Could this app be used maliciously, showing my info (location, screenshots, and isight-photo) to a hacker who manages to flip my account into Test Mode? How secure is the WEB SERVICE side of this?

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  • miguel

    hidden software used to a desktop computer?

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  • Tim

    If it is not connected to the internet via wifi or ethernet how can you find the person? What if they just erase the HDD or replace it with another one. How would it protect it then. I’m skeptical this would really work :(

  • chris

    they only way to find out is to install mac osx fresh, then install the hidden or undercover software. then format the drive with an external boot disk, such as Darik’s Boot and Nuke, then reinstall osx after marking it as “stolen”. that way, there is a solution to your questions. if the software does not appear to capture info after this process, then you have your answer. the software cannot reside in the motherboard memory or BIOS, so if you have not locked your hard drive with a drive password, more than likely there is a way to remove the software.

  • Randolph Gonzales

    If it is not connected to the internet via wifi or ethernet how can you find the person?

  • http://t31deluz90338.webs.com/apps/blog/show/6751553-smart-pill-modafinilo modafilino

    I was wondering if you ever considered changing the layout of your blog? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or two images. Maybe you could space it out better?

  • Unintelligent Design

    So, theoretically, the thief would just have to simply reinstall the OS and the that’s it?

    You could take the HDD, remove it, hook it up to another computer and do a,
    [[ dd if='/dev/sdb' bs=25M conv=sync,notrunc | lzop -1 > /home/macdisk.img ]]

    Then do a,
    [[ dd if='/dev/null' of='/dev/sdb' ]]

    Install a new OS X, or whatever to it, and have defeated the protection, and also stole all of the data on the drive in less than 1 afternoon’s time?

    Not worth the money… at all. Especially when you could script that, when you don’t run a hidden file or something at login, sends requests to your desktop or server, which listens on a couple ports.

    Initiate a SSH into the laptop, and do a whole lot more than just play with the camera and google maps.

    Seriously….?

    Flaw #1:
    “You paid upwards of $1,000 for it.”

    Top of the line, best hardware MacBook Pro 15″ = $3,749.00
    (i7 2.7GHz > ~3.7GHz – 16GB 1600MHz DDR3 – 768GB SSD) [only 3 hardware options]
    Note: SSD is actually “built into” the computer, they say you gotta buy it when you purchase… rofl.

    Cheapest (>= ~$1000) MacBook Air 11″ = $1,099.00
    (i5 1.7GHz – 4GB 1600MHz DDR3 – 128GB S.tupidS.uckerD.rive )

    A challenger appears…
    http://linkshrink.com/crapbookpro

    Flaw #2:
    “If your Mac is currently connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi”
    So they just don’t connect to the internet, and why would they? I mean, they STOLE IT. Once they sell it, or clear the protection, they’re no longer associated with it at all. They could steal the sensitive data with a USB drive too.

    Flaw #3:
    “so they can work with the indicated ISP to track down the thief.”
    A traceroute is NOT evidence enough for any kind of warrant. Let alone a court case. If anything, they probably steal WiFi too, if they stole one of these garbage computers.

    Respond please.

    • AG

      well my response is that you appear to be a Windoze-geek with serious snark issues. It’s funny that you’d refer to Macs as “garbage computers” when the land-fills of the world are actually full of cheap throwaway PCs.

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  • Ellis

    Does Hidden work for all Mac products? Like Ipad Mini? i currently have insurance on it but im paying R80/Month which is a little less then $15 which in Hiddens case would be for a year. I wana ditch the insurance company for this app. Does it work?

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