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Undercover: Mac anti-theft software

David Chartier

A friend of mine sent me a link to a new piece of security/Mac-tracking software called Undercover. Essentially, this software runs in the background on your Mac and periodically pings an Undercover Recovery Center. In the event of a stolen Mac, you can contact the center and they can kick the software into gear, collecting IP information and, interestingly, screenshots of what's happening on your stolen Mac. The idea is that if the thief is actually using his undeserved new prize, he could, sooner or later, give away details of his identity, say with a chat name or checking email. If this "Plan A" fails, the Undercover Center can then enact "Plan B," causing the Mac to act like it's experiencing hardware failure which, by their logic, would prompt the thief to either sell it or send it in for service. While I'm not sure how they could determine the Mac has again changed hands, let alone come into the care of someone who would help, Undercover could then make the Mac display a message stating that it has been stolen, along with contact information and the offer of a Finder's fee.

While this sounds like an ideal chain of events following the theft of your Mac, Damien brought up a couple great points as to why this software might have a limited, if at all, rate of success. First, the typical computer thief might find a way to erase the stolen computer (which makes me wonder what kind of people Damien hangs out with). Second, if you're a portable notebook user concerned about security and theft, you probably don't walk away from the book while logged in, and (hopefully) you don't set your book to automatically log in anyway. As far as I understand how this software works, both of these practices would render Undercover useless, as I'm pretty sure you need to be logged in for the software to work its magic.

Ultimately, you should probably check out more of Undercover's abilities and inner workings before jumping on it. Orbicule, the makers of Undercover, offer a customer service/sales online chat option if you'd like to talk to them more about it. At the end of the day, it's at least nice to see some new thinking (even if it might not be fool-proof) in terms of portable computer security.

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