23 February 2006

The amazing success story

It has taken a bit longer than anticipated, but I'm finally posting the full story on the London theft. The reason for the delay is that I waited for the 'crime scene' pictures to arrive. Since they still haven't arrived yet, I decided to go ahead and just post the story for your reading pleasure. Additionally, I did not want to interfere with the investigation, or even ruin it by posting the story on our weblog.

I won't keep you waiting any longer. Below is the original theft story as sent to me by Amit Tida, victim of the theft, whose Powerbook had been stolen on February 6th. As you will read, Undercover plays a pivotal role in the recovery of the stolen PB, but in a slightly different way than you would think. Here is the unedited story:

Hi, my name is Amit Tida, I'm a student at SAE institute in London where I'm studying Digital filmmaking and special effects. On 6th on feb, after returning home from shopping, I found that home had been burgled, finding that my powerbook along with other personal possession, had been stolen. After going through the normal procedure with the police and all that, I e-mailed orbicule, with my ID and telling them what happened, so they could black list my powerbook. Within 1 hour or less, I was contacted by Orbicule and they told me that they have started the search and also gave some useful advice. Upset that I was I wanted to carry on with my life, and having uni the next day, I carried on as usual.

During the day I got a call from my mum saying that Orbicule had contacted my home to get more details on the case, so they could contact my local authorities, so I then decided to go home. After reaching home, I decided to go to the back of my house to look for any clues or anything the thieves might have dropped or left. Upon reaching the back gate, I saw my powerbook and seeing it I was so happy, but at the same time a bit confused, (as the night before, when the robbery took place, the police had searched up and down my garden and back gate and found nothing).

Almost at the same time, the investigation team arrived. After taking the powerbook inside my house, and after they searched for finger prints, and all that, they basically turned on the powerbook and searched through it, as they felt that the thieves might have used it, and they came to the conclusion that someone had actually used the powerbook, as they where able to, some how checked some sort of log which said what time the last login was, and said that someone had login in after 4.3 hours after the burglary had been reported. They also came to the conclusion the thief had come back to house near early morning and placed the powerbook at the back of the garden next to the broken gate (where they had supposedly escaped) in fear that they would get caught. As I had stuck a sticker which I made inside my power saying "ORBICULE PROTECTED.... SO DROP IT", when I first got Undercover installed.

That's my story; I'm just so happy as I now have my powerbook and all my work back and able now to give in my coursework on time. If you want to ask me more questions e-mail me at thedirector.akt@gmail.com

I think you'll agree that this is an amazing story. The thieves came back to return the stolen Powerbook because they found the "Orbicule protected" label on the Powerbook. FYI: this label was made by Amit himself, he's an art/creative/filmmaking student after all. The thieves were scared that this Powerbook would lead the police to their home.

While I don't think it would be a good idea to label all Undercover-enabled Macs -- because Undercover relies on the fact that it is a hidden application -- this story does show that theft can be reduced or prevented just by installing Undercover. This could be especially true in schools and corporations where the students/employees know that their Mac is protected.

The most important thing, however, is that I'm very glad Amit got his Powerbook back and that he could submit his assignment on time!

07 February 2006

The proof of the pudding...

This morning, we received an email from a London-based student to alert us that his Powerbook had been stolen and that he had Undercover installed on it. This was the first theft report we received after launching Undercover 20 days ago. Of course we were sad to hear this news, while on the other hand we were very eager to see how Undercover would behave in a real-world theft and we were quite confident that Undercover would help us trace the Powerbook.

A few seconds ago, we received an email from this student to tell us that his Powerbook has been found, thanks to Undercover. This whole story might sound a bit weird, especially since we are releasing a major update to Undercover today, but trust me this is not a joke or a cheap marketing trick. We can't provide more information at the moment, but we will - of course - follow up on this story and inform you as more information becomes available.

Needless to say, we are extremely happy. In the first place we are glad this student can just continue his assignments without going through all the insurance hassle. And secondly, we think this proves how useful a theft recovery application can be!

To be continued.....

[UPDATE: a full story is coming. It will be published as soon as we receive the pictures made by the London Police Department. Please stay tuned.]

It's here! Grab your 1.5 update.

Undercover 1.5 is out and we are really excited about it. As I announced in the previous post, iSight support is the major new addition to Undercover. We had to do some fine-tuning to make sure we get the best image quality out of the camera, especially with the classic auto-focus iSights (the auto-focus obviously needs a few seconds to provide an optimal image). We have carried out many tests, both internally and with beta testers worlwide and they were all amazed by the efficiency of the iSight feature. All in all, I think this feature will prove to be very valuable when identifying the thief and working with law enforcement. The rapid addition of iSight support would not have been possible without Tim Omernick and his excellent CocoaSequenceGrabber framework. Because Undercover has no 'About box', I would like to use this post to thank Tim for providing this framework to the Cocoa community.

However, iSight support is not the only difference with Undecover 1.0. Security and reliability were two aspects we focused on for this first update and I think this really payed off (see the separate post on hacking Undercover).

The update can be downloaded for free from our Undercover web site.

Hacking Undercover

Undercover has generated a huge amount of buzz on the web. This has resulted in great coverage (overall very positive), but also in one or two weird "reviews" in which all kinds of claims are made, based on a 'taking the application apart' approach. While some of these claims were correct, many more are absolutely false and that's why I'm not linking them here. More importantly, none of these claims are still true for Undercover 1.5.

We really want Undercover to be the best and most secure theft-recovery application on the planet, so we did not stop after fixing the few issues that were raised. We wanted our software to be really, really secure..... therefore we hired a hacker. Not just some teenage wannabe, a real one named Mike. We sent him a license key and let him play with the Undercover 1.5 beta. We were delighted to learn that he only found one issue and something that could be easily fixed.

Conclusion: we are pretty confident that Undercover 1.5 is one of the most secure applications on your Mac. It is absolutely impossible for a thief to remove the application without knowing the Admin password. You don't have to take our word for it, you can try it yourself.