Macs in Chemistry

Insanely Great Science


A late night call


Whenever I get a late night call I always fear the worst, I guess it is one of the unexplained features of being a parent. This night it was a very despondent child “My laptop has been stolen”. After confirming that they were OK and that nothing irreplaceable had been stolen I immediately logged into the Undercover website and logged the laptop as stolen and waited…

I think I first met Peter Schols the developer at WWDC in 2005 and heard about his idea for an application to trace stolen Macs, when the application became available I installed it on all my families machines. As time has gone on we have replaced machines and upgraded the software without any need to actually activate it until now.

The machine was stolen on a friday night from typical university accommodation, always people around, but you can never be sure if anyone has a copy of a key. We got an automated email from Orbicule saying the they were sorry to hear about the laptop and that they would inform me when the laptop was next online. They also asked me to fill in a form with the police incident information and contact details for the officer in charge of the case.

Nothing happened for several days and we were beginning to think the machine was lost for good when suddenly I got an email saying the machine was online. I quickly logged onto the Undercover website and within a short while we had the location, IP address, together with a series of photographs of the user. The police officer went around but unfortunately the culprit was out, over the next few days it was possible to build up a picture of the culprit’s working routine and to get screenshots of their bank account, ebay activities and much more personal information. Orbicule were then able to provide with a detailed evidence package to the police and they were able to target a time when the culprit would be at home.

The police were then able to arrest the culprit and recover the laptop!

The police were stunned by the detailed evidence that Orbicule were able to provide, I don't think they had ever seen such a comprehensive evidence package.

As I said I've had Undercover installed for years and it will be the first thing that is installed on any new machine.