Protecting Your Laptop with Undercover 2

Undercover logoUndercover, a theft recovery solution for Macs, has been updated to 2.0 and is free to all existing users. This release includes a new “Plan B” feature: if you Mac is disconnected from the internet for two months, the Mac will become unusable until reconnected. This release also includes support for Leopard and takes up less resources.

In the event your Mac is stolen, Undercover transmits iSight pictures, screenshots, and network information to Undercover’s servers, where the information is given to law enforcement to help recover your computer. If this doesn’t work, Undercover simulates a hardware failure to encourage the thief to either sell the computer or take it in for repair. Because Undercover knows when network information has changed, they can determine when the computer changes hands. When it does, they then tell the computer to display a “this computer is stolen” message and make the computer unusable.

Fast User Switching menuPersonally, I have my MacBook setup with my personal user account and a password-less “Guest” user account with Fast User Switching turned on. (Note that this Guest account is not the “new” Leopard-style guest account: it’s a normal account that won’t delete data on logout.) When I want to put my MacBook to sleep, I select “Login Window” from the Fast User Switching menu extra, and then click the Sleep button at the Login Window.

If my computer is then stolen, the thief won’t know the password to my user account, so they will have to use the Guest account. The Guest account will retain data, which will be helpful as further evidence when the computer is recovered. If the Mac is then connected to the internet, Undercover will activate and begin sending mugshots of the thief using the computer and screenshots of what the thief is doing. By using a firmware password, the thief won’t be able to wipe the disk, and he won’t be able to stop Undercover, even if he knew it was installed, because he won’t have the privileges as a standard user to do so.

I wish this “Plan B” was adjustable to a shorter timeframe for even greater security, because my MacBook is connected to the internet at least every 2 days. Nevertheless, it’s a welcome addition, and with an upgrade price of free, it makes it even better.

Undercover is $49, and they offers a $10 discount to students, which is nice if you’re in college like me.