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What thief could possibly resist?
[Click here for a review of Undercover 2.5.]
Rating: (four burnt toasts)
Orbicule (Peter Schols)
Embarrassment at being duped by an incredibly naive program
Prohibitively expensive return trip ticket out of the Twilight Zone
Undercover represents a quantum leap in anti-theft software. Traditionally, anti-theft software sends you an e-mail from time to time, containing the internet location of your computer. This e-mail can then be used to trace your computer's physical location. For most software in this genre, that's about it. Not so for Undercover: it takes a completely different approach to anti-theft software.
They sure got that right. But let's read more from the 'how it works' page at the Orbicule website.
Upon installation, you'll receive an Undercover ID that's unique for the Mac you are installing Undercover on. This ID is very important: it will enable you to start the theft-recovery process. Note that for your own privacy, we can not monitor or recover your Mac without this code.
When your Mac is online, Undercover checks our database every few minutes to verify whether the Mac it is running on is in our database of stolen Macs. If it's not, nothing happens and no data will be transfered from your Mac to our server.
OK... We persevere:
As soon as your Mac is stolen, you send us the Undercover ID you received upon registration. We will add this code to our database of stolen Macs.
The next time your stolen Mac goes online (using dial-up, WiFi, ethernet, Bluetooth, ...) it will notice that it is included in our database of stolen Macs. This will initiate the first phase, in which Undercover will send both network information and screenshots of your stolen Mac. The network information enables us to work with the network administrators of the ISP the thief is connected to. Since ISPs consider computer theft as network abuse, they will uncover the thief's identity. Together with law enforcement, we work to recover the Mac.
Notice the 'it will notice that it is included in our database of stolen Macs'. We move on. To something aptly titled 'Plan B'.
If law enforcement fails to recover the stolen Mac, Undercover switches to plan B. In this mode, Undercover will simulate a hardware failure, making parts of the screen unusable. This erratic behaviour will be accompanied by a Mac OS X system message stating that a hardware failure has been detected. At this point, we think the thief has two options: to send the computer to a reseller for repair, or to get rid of it by selling it on the Net. In either case, Undercover will show a full-screen message alerting the reseller or someone who bought the Mac from the thief that the Mac has been stolen, that it has become unusable and that it needs to be returned as soon as possible. Our contact information and a promise for a finder's fee (which will be covered by us) will be displayed as well. This message can be fully customized by the user and when dismissed, this message will instantly reappear. Additionally, your Mac will start shouting at the highest volume level, using its built-in text-to-speech capabilities. You can decide when Undercover switches to plan B.
Because of the message Undercover displays, technicians will quickly notice that the Mac has been stolen. Moreover, Apple has a database containing serial numbers of stolen Macs, a database which is routinely checked when Macs are sent to Apple for repair. As soon as you get back your Mac, we will remove it from our database of stolen Macs. Your Mac will immediately start to behave normally, as if nothing happened. Undercover can not be disabled by the thief. If you install Apple's firmware password, your Mac can not be formatted without knowing your firmware password.
Pay special attention to 'Undercover can not be disabled by the thief'. Pay very special attention to it.
It's now time to look a little closer at what this app really does.
Undercover 0.1: How It Works »