Hidden: Track and Recover Your Stolen Mac

Posted by | July 01, 2010 | Apps | No Comments

Your Mac is a serious investment. You paid upwards of $1,000 for it, keep sensitive information on it and maybe even depend on it to make a living. Given all of this, would you be willing to pay $20 to protect it?

Today we’ll look at Hidden, a useful tool for tracking the location of your Mac in the unfortunate case of a theft. According to the Hidden developers, “the FBI reports that 97% of stolen computers are never recovered.” Will you be prepared if it happens to you?

How Hidden Protects Your Mac

If your Mac is ever stolen, do you have a way to find it? Hidden allows you to not only locate your computer, but take a photo of who is using it and grab screenshots of what the thief is doing.

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Hidden Features

If you doubt the legitimacy of your ability to recover your Mac even with this information, consider the case of an Apple employee in 2008 who used “Back to My Mac”, a MobileMe service, to photograph the thief in possession of her computer and eventually recover her lost property (source). Also consider the fact that MobileMe is $99/year.

Getting Started

To begin, you’ll first need to stop by the Hidden website and purchase a license. You then download a copy of Hidden and walk through the typical Mac installer. It might be helpful here to note that your permissions have to be in order for the installation to run properly, if the installation fails, open Disk Utility and click “repair permissions.”

After you have successfully installed Hidden, log in to the website to see if everything is working properly. As you can see in the screenshot below, the site will show you a list of the computers you have registered.

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Hidden Interface

There’s a color coding system that tells you what phase you’re in. If you’re installation is “OK” then you should be all set and prepared for the worst.

As odd as it sounds to say, hopefully you’ll never have to use the application. Think of it as more of an insurance policy than a fun new toy that you get to play with.

To Catch a Thief

If your computer is ever stolen, sign on to the hidden website and click the “edit device” button in the image above. Here you can set the status of your computer to Not Stolen, Test Mode, or Stolen. Test Mode will allow you to try out all the features and see if everything is functioning properly. In Stolen mode, Hidden will take a new sample every ten minutes.

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Changing Your Status

Back at the main screen, your color bar should now be updated to reflect that you’re in test mode. From here click the “View Updates” button to see the information about your Mac.

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Test Mode

After a few minutes of being in test mode, hidden will spring into action. If you or the thief is particularly observant, you’ll catch the little light on your camera turn on and off. By the time you notice though it’s too late, you’ve been caught!

Under your updates you should now see a new “packet” of information regarding your thief and the location of your Mac.

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Test Mode

The highlighted area above shows you two images. The first is a screenshot of what is currently on your Mac’s screen. The second is the picture taken with your Mac’s built-in iSight. Click on either of these to see a larger preview.

Tracking Your Mac

If your Mac is currently connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi, you should see a map of its approximate location in your control panel. This location should be shared with your local authorities and is not provided so you can play vigilante and attempt to get your Mac back alone. Though if you’re crazy enough to try I do want to hear the story!

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Test Mode

If there is no map, the area likely either lacks coverage or the computer simply isn’t on a Wi-Fi network.

Other Information

To see more information about where you Mac is currently located, click on a packet. What you should see here is a huge pile of numbers that you probably won’t understand in the slightest.

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Test Mode

The reason for the complicated nature of the data is that your Mac doesn’t come equipped with a GPS tracking device. Instead, Hidden is forced to rely on three primary sources of information: your Public IP, traceroute and ifconfig.

The developers quick explanation of this info is as follows: “The Public IP address is the computer’s footprint on the Internet, the traceroute shows how a packet of data is routed from your stolen computer to the web servers at Google.com and the ifconfig displays the local network environment of your stolen computer.”

Essentially, you just need to provide this information to the police so they can work with the indicated ISP to track down the thief. With an IP address in hand, the ISP should be able to provide the police with an address.

An Alternative Solution

If you’re looking for a free way to accomplish much of the same functionality, check out a dynamic DNS service like DynDNS.

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Test Mode

DynDNS is more for the techie types who know their way around complex network jargon, but it will let you access your machine remotely and even grab the IP to provide to the police.

Closing Thoughts

If you’re at all worried about robbery in your neighborhood or the dependability of the “friends” you invite into your house, I highly recommend spending the $20. Hidden is easy to use and can really provide the extra evidence needed to get your Mac back. You’ll no doubt still have plenty of headaches actually trying to get your Mac returned, but without a service like this, you can almost guarantee that you’ll never see it again.

Looking for a few other options? Check out our review of Undercover, a similar app, or read through our Vital Tips for Securing Your New Mac!

Leave a comment below and let us know what you think of Hidden. Also share any ideas or alternative solutions for tracking a stolen Mac!