I’ll explain my strategies first, so you understand why I do each thing. They might be right or wrong, and feel free to add your thoughts!
The basic idea is you cannot be absolutely sure that your computer is safe. It can be stolen unexpectedly at any time. So, my main objective is to increase the probability to get it back if that day ever comes.
1. Have tracking software installed and properly configured on your system. Prey and FindMyMac are good ways to start.
2. Lock down the EFI Firmware or BIOS, so the stupid thief cannot boot from any other disks except the main one that you use.
3. Provide a guest user account with limited privileges to lure the thief in, and don’t forget to lock your main accounts with passwords!
4. If things go the way we think, the thief will start using your machine using the guest account and hopefully connect to the Internet. This gives Prey and FindMyMac to talk to our stolen machine, and collect the important information.
A Bit of Explaination and Other Things
1. By locking down the EFI Firmware, if you hold ‘Option’ on startup, you have to enter the password to select the disk to boot from. Holding ‘C’ (and other shortcuts) on startup to boot from CD/DVD will be automatically disabled too. We basically make it harder for the thief to try wiping our system clean, and also prevent them to boot off any other system and ignore our thief tracking software.
2. If your machine is a MacBook Air or any laptops with *built-in custom designed SSD, there are less chances that the thief will be smart enough and try to boot from other disks.
3. For a MacBook that replaces the SuperDrive with an OptiBay and have a Mac OS X installation on both disks, I’m not sure what the Firmware will do if the Startup volume is taken out, but the secondary OS X installation still presents. Will it automatically boot off that 2nd disk? (Given that the firmware is password protected.) I have to test this and will update the post after I’m done.
4. New Mac models (which I do not have) have ‘Safari-Only’ mode, I’m not sure if FindMyMac will function in this mode (I believe it does, but Prey definitely will not), so the best way to go is the Guest Account!
5. Mountain Lion & Lion provides you the ability to show ‘Lock Message’ on the lock screen, you can use it to display your contact information, or threats, or anything you like. Go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General > Tick ‘Show a message….’ and Set Lock Message.
6. There are ways to reset the firmware password if you absolutely can’t remember it, but let’s hope the thief is not too smart!
Protecting Your Data
I know, I know, the data stored on your computer might be even more valuable than the machine itself! So please do yourself a favor and BACKUP !!
For data stored on external hard drives, if you carry these drives around with you everywhere, you might consider having another set of hard drives containing the same data at home, since there are great possibilities that the drives will be stolen along with your laptops.
Also, if you have sensitive data on your machine, consider FileVault or any encryption service so your data are inaccessible by anyone but you. (FileVault have to some annoyances to consider, for example, if you have Bootcamp, you can’t access the data on your Mac HD from Windows side, shame.)
Prey In Action
You Might Wanna Read This
This one is about Guest Account and FindMyMac.
Top 5 Ways Laptops Are Stolen
Prey Project: software anti-robo
A Backup Plan for a Stolen Laptop
Display Contact info on Login/Lock Screen of OS X Lion
How to Set a Custom Login Message on Your Mac’s Lock Screen
All The Best,
- How to Keep Your MacBook Safe: Theft Prevention and Recovery Tactics (mac.tutsplus.com)
- How to set a firmware password without rebooting in OS X (reviews.cnet.com)
- How to protect your computer and data in case disaster strikes (thenextweb.com)
- Tracking Stolen Macs with Undercover 5 (macstories.net)