Via this month’s issue of MacFormat comes an intriguing bit of software, Undercover. It’s designed to catch your friendly neighbourhood thief. It does some obvious things, like track and try to communicate information (IP address, router address, etc). However, it also does some more unusual tricks, like take screenshots of what the tea-leaf is doing, and even on enabled machines (like the new MacBook Pro), takes photographs with the built-in iSight digital camera and sends them on too! Finally, if none of that works, it develops a fake hardware fault in the hope that it will provoke the new ‘owner’ to bring it to an Apple shop, where it then magicall repairs and gives a notice of the true owner to the (presumably baffled) technician. In fact, it will even start TALKING at that stage. Which is just freaky.
The makers are pretty confident – they offer money back if they don’t get your Mac back. It seems that the system works by you notifiying them when the machine has been stolen, at which point the monitoring kicks in (incidentally, unless the machine goes online, it won’t work at all). One thing that could concern users, though, is that your machine does communicate constantly with the company, although they assert that they do nothing until you’ve notified a theft.
It’s basically voluntary benevolent spyware. But perhaps a worthwhile tradeoff – a positive use of what is normally negative technology? Would you use this software?