Keeping Your Mac Secure: 4 Great Theft-Recovery Apps

Last summer, my MacBook was stolen. It had no protection, no password, no data encrypted, and the thief had access to all of my emails through Mail.app. I even found out that the thief, or the subsequent buyer of my beautiful Macbook, had been using my Instapaper account to bookmark his own webpages! (I have changed my password since).

After that horrible experience was over and I had my new Macbook, some of the first things that I did with it were increase its security, and look into theft-recovery apps.

Anti-theft apps, or theft-recovery apps, provide you with useful information, like location and IP address, once your computer gets lost or stolen. Some even give you access to your computer’s webcam, and a few take care of the whole recovery process of your Mac.

Keep on reading to see some of our favorite apps!

Hidden

Hidden

Hidden is one of the fancier options in the market. Once you buy your license, it gives you access to a webpage where you can track all the computers that you’ve registered; and if they are ever stolen, you have to tell their website about it.

The next time it’s online, Hidden will gather information about its location and it will even give you access to periodic updates from your iSight, as well as screenshots of what the thief has been doing.

Want to know what’s even better? The developer is giving away free licenses until January, 2011, as a Christmas promotion.

Price: $20 / Free until January, 2011.
Requires: OS X 10.5 or greater
Developer: Flipcode

Undercover

Undercover

Undercover is probably the most well known anti-theft app for Macs. It’s also the most expensive option, but it sure is worth its price.

Undercover is sort of a set-it-and-forget-it app. You buy a license, set the program up on your Mac and then forget it is there; that is, until your computer gets stolen. If it ever is stolen, you need to tell Undercover’s service, and once they start collecting information, they will even take care of giving it to the police, and working with them together to find your precious computer.

Apparently, they usually are successful at recovering stolen Macs, but if they don’t, Undercover will make your computer go into a “false failure” status where the screen will go blank, forcing the thief to take it to an Apple Store or similar, where they will be alerted that they are dealing with a stolen computer.

And if that fails, they will give you back the money you paid for the app. While it is expensive, Undercover makes it more likely that you will recover your Macbook effortlessly.

Price: $49
Requires: OS X 10.4 or greater
Developer: Orbicule

Prey

Prey is an open-source app that works across various platforms, and brings the same functionality to all of them: recover lost or stolen devices. It has all the features that Undercover and Hidden have: screenshots, snapshots, location tracking, and even a lock-down feature, so that the thief doesn’t get access to your important information.

Once your device gets stolen, you have to report it to the website so they can start collecting information. You can then check data through the site, or have it sent to your mail, depending what you chose during the installation.

Prey may not be made specifically for Mac, but it is a very solid, functional free alternative.

Price: Free
Requires: OS X 10.4 or greater
Developer: Fork

Gadgettrak

Gadgettrak Laptop

Gadgettrak Laptop works very much like any other anti-theft app. You set up the client, and if your computer gets stolen, you report it, they track it, and send you the information they gathered. However, for what it does its price is a bit high.

Compared to Hidden, it has the same features for almost double the price. And while Undercover is pricier than Gadgettrak Laptop, Undercover takes care of filing all the reports and working with the police to get your computer back.

According to their website, this app has received coverage on numerous media outlets like Wired and Engadget, and while it sure seems like it does its job well, it’s on the pricey side.

Price: $34.95 per year
Requires: OS X 10.5 or greater
Developer: Gadgettrak

Conclusion

Recovering your stolen laptop is bound to be hard, even with these sort of apps, but they sure make it easier for you to track down your thief. Their downside is that in order for them to work, the thief needs to connect your computer to a network, so that the app can detect that the computer has been stolen and that it should send info to their service.

If you need a password to access your computer and you want to use these apps, I’d recommend that you setup a guest account, to make it easier for the thief to access an internet connection. You should also setup a firmware password, so that it’s harder for the thief to reinstall the OS, wiping everything in your hard drive, including the theft-recovery app.

That being said, it’s definitely better to have one of these apps than not. You should definitely take five minutes out of your day to install a free alternative like Prey, but if you want to be more serious about it, I’d totally recommend you to go all the way with Undercover or Hidden, both great alternatives at different prices.

Undercover is pricier, but it makes the recovery of your laptop more likely; and while Hidden is cheaper, you will deal with reporting everything to the authorities yourself.

Whatever you choose, or if you have another alternative that you would like to share, we want to hear it in the comments!


  • http://twitter.com/evanriley Evan Riley

    Wow, I did not know that Hidden was free until 2011, thank you posting about this. I’m one of those guys who thinks it will never happen to me, kind of, but this post slightly put it on my mind, I’m flying to Boston for Christmas tomorrow and this reminded of what could happen to my Macbook.

    Thank you!

    • Felix

      It was free for only one day because the promotion was too popular :(

      But I have Prey on my MacBook Pro and everything worked fine when I simulated a steal.

      http://www.preyproject.com

  • ED

    Flipcode server seems to be down. Tried http://www.flipcode.co.uk/ on Safari and Chrome and it stalls. Has anyone else an alternative email?

    Also, I think the U of Washington has a free security package too. http://adeona.cs.washington.edu/

  • Jon

    I use Prey and love it. It works beautifully on my Macs, and I have tested it while traveling… reporting my MacBook Pro stolen to see what happens. It comes through every time with pictures, screenshots and a map of the hotel that I at at while testing. Good stuff.

  • Mike Hall

    I used Prey, but upon testing the stolen feature I received information/screenshots of my computer however a few from other random computers which I was also able control the other random computers etc.

    • http://usefork.com Tom

      Hi Mike,

      Prey developer here. If I understood correctly, what you’re saying sounds pretty odd. It’s impossible to control *other* computers or phones on Prey besides your own.

      If you have any questions feel free to contact us.

  • Ken

    +1 for Prey. Been using it for a year and it works smooth. They just released a new version by the way.

  • Dave

    Yeah although Im going to try Hidden because of the promotion, I really like Prey. It’s an excellent program and service that I recommend to all my friends. The reports are really detailed and there are plenty of options. However sometimes the reports are incomplete (no screenshot or no map, etc.).

    I found it after my brother’s car was stolen with his macbook pro. While the car was found, the computer wasn’t. Now all the computers in my family have Prey and a firmware password.

  • hellogoodbye

    goddamn you hidden you bullshit piece of shit your promotion ended early cunt nigger faggot

    • Felix

      Relax!

      Prey is here end it is free and does the same things!

      http://www.preyproject.com

    • Anonymous

      You should be ashamed of yourself, hellogoodbye. I don’t normally reply to postings, but this absolutely disgusted me. Appstorm moderator, please remove this post!!!! This poster’s words are disgusting and completely out of line, no matter how upset he or she may be.

    • Noob_for_life

      The post from hellogoodbye is repugnant. Moderator, please remove it.

  • http://about.me/jorgerdz Jorge Rodriguez

    From Hidden’s blog:
    We’re sad to announce that we are ending the Christmas promotion early on the 23rd of December. The response has been far greater than we ever imagined and it’s starting to cause problems for our paying users, which isn’t fair.

    We’d like to congratulate the tens of thousands of users who managed to get their free copies before today, and offer our condolences to the people who haven’t registered yet.

    Any licenses which have been issued will remain valid.

    Maybe we’ll do it again next year (when we can be slightly better prepared)!

    Merry Christmas,
    From everyone at Hidden.

  • Greg

    I appreciate a special from the guys over at Hidden but this one didn’t make a lot of sense:

    “The response has been far greater than we ever imagined and it’s starting to cause problems for our paying users, which isn’t fair.”

    The special was initiated by you, not your customer … How does it cause problems for the paying customer? You ran the special I don’t think anybody of your customers complained unless they just bought it and bitched they want the special too. You always have such people.
    The right thing would have been to stand behind your word and stick with the promised date. I think you caused more trouble by doing this than from customers that cause problem, which just don’t make sense.
    Instead of a lame excuse you should have been honest saying that it probably exceeded your expectations and you worry about the business you are loosing due to the special. Nobody would have complained and would have understood. But now all you did was creating frustration and disappointment.
    I hope you learn out of this and make it better next year.

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  • Karen

    I wonder if something like Prey can run IN ADDITION TO Hidden (for instance)???
    Being at the mercy of only one company’s ability and existence seems just a bit thin to me – better than nothing I suppose.

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  • Alias Node

    When these apps take their webcam snapshots, does the light next to the camera come on?

    • alex

      @Alias node
      webcam light does come on for like a second, I’m guessing that is going to really piss off the thief.
      Anyways around it?

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    You are a really ignorant person and should reevaluate yourself. Lucky for you that you are saying these things across the Internet. You being the coward you are I know you would never say it in the presence of anyone that has the power to wire your mouth shut for a few months. I pray you never make that mistake.

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  • VH

    Format and stolen mac works great.

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