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The importance of Computer Anti Theft Software

Last December my apartment was broken into and robbed. The thieves took Colognes, Coins, but most importantly they took my friend’s Macbook. It was at my house because I was repairing the screen’s backlight. When I first entered the apartment I was in shock and thought that maybe the landlord needed to get into the apartment, however I noticed cupboards were open and items missing. It took me a good ten to twenty seconds to accept that I had been a victim of burglary.I quickly called the Police, which only showed up five or six hours later. Since I’ve watched a lot of TV and Movies, I expected that the police would investigate. I was clearly wrong when I was just asked two or three questions and the officer left.

I quickly informed my friend that my apartment got robbed, and that his laptop was stolen. Thankfully he was not angry and told me he would just buy another laptop (what a good friend). However I still felt obliged to do something. I had assumed that if I gave the serial number to the local Apple Store, they could keep an eye out for it (since it needs to be repaired). The Apple Store employee informed me that Apple couldn’t do that unless the police have required them to do so. I quickly saw that anyone is susceptible to getting his or her computer stolen and wanted to be protect myself.

While others have used Back To My Mac to combat Macintosh thieves, that method is very iffy and is not structured to get your computer back. I quickly did some research and found two solid software choices. The first being Orbicule’s Undercover (which my friend had been using) and the Second Absolute Software’s Computrace LoJack for Laptops. Both Software suites offer theft recovery for your Macintosh (Lojack for laptops is also offered on Windows OS).

Undercover is a Native 64bit OS X program that takes full advantage of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.  Undercover is written specifically for Mac OS X and not ported over from Windows. When your computer goes missing, it is tracked using technology developed by Skyhook Wireless, which locates your computer within ten to twenty meters. Undercover also takes screenshots as well as pictures of whoever is using the computer (using the built in iSight Camera). If the computer cannot be recovered using tracking, it switches to Plan B. Plan B simulates a hardware failure by dimming the screen to pitch black (can not be reversed by the brightness buttons on the keyboard). This will hopefully make the thief sell the computer or try to have it fixed. Finally when the computer is out of the thief’s hands a full-screen message letting the person present know that this is in-fact a stolen computer and how to return it. As of July 10th 2009 Orbicule has an 86% recovery rate. Below are the current costs of Orbicule’s Undercover (as of Sept 9th, 2009)

License

Price

Single User

$49

Household (5 Macs)

$59

Site (25 Macs)

$249

Student

$39

Upgrade to Household from Single User

$16

Volume Education (100 Copies or more)

$9.99

Computrace Lojack for laptops is a subscription-based service. The standard service offers to track down and recover your stolen computer. The theft recovery team works gathers evidence and closely works with local police to retrieve your laptop. L4L comes in two flavors Windows and Mac. The Windows version embeds itself into the bios (if your computer’s bios supports that feature) making removal of Lojack very daunting even for the most equipped thief. The premium version of L4L offers the same standard service as well as the ability to remotely delete data, which comes in handy for people with sensitive data. Finally the premium version also offers a up to $1,000 service guarantee incase your machine can not be retrieved. Below are the current costs for Lojack for Laptops (as of Sept 9th 2009).

1 Year

3 Years

Standard

(Electronic Download)

$39.99

$89.99

Premium

(Electronic Download)

$59.99

$109.99

Standard

(Boxed Shipment)

$49.99

$99.99

Premium

(Boxed Shipment)

$69.99

$119.99

I have used both these software packages and completely forgot that they are running in the background securing my computer. That is a good thing because it makes them hard to detect. Even if a would-be thief can detect them they would still need the administrator password to delete them. If the thief wanted to get really crafty though he/she would try to format the computer, which then would remove the security program and the administrator password. Luckily though apple has built an Open Firmware Password Utility. This utility allows the user to set a password for protecting low-level access to your Macintosh computer. In layman terms, a person cannot boot from any device other than the main drive without entering the password. I recommend the following procedures to maximize the chances of retrieving your computer.

  1. Set an Open Firmware Password
  2. Setting up a Guest Account (System Preferences/Accounts)

By doing so, you give the thief the ability to use your computer in order to connect to the Internet and be traced, without any real danger of removing the theft recovery software.

Finally I wish I had thought of this software prior to being robbed. I now have my Mac pro equipped with Orbicule’s Undercover and Lojack for Laptops in our Band’s Crew Laptop. Honestly after this terrible experience, I now know that this can happen to anyone, and I’d rather be safe than sorry. A small and very reasonable investment in one of these two software solutions could have not only gotten my friend’s laptop back, but also found the thieves that robbed my apartment. I could have recovered most of my stolen property if not all, but most importantly they would be in jail stopping them from robbing again for a good while.  If you have any questions or comments please comment below and I will reply as soon as possible.