Protect You Mac (or Any Computer)

A person I admired just got her laptops and other things stolen from her car. I’ve got this idea in my head for quite a while, but the incident inspired me to write this post. So here you go.

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.

Strategies

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.
http://osxdaily.com/2011/10/13/disable-guest-user-account-mac-os-x-10-7-2-login-screen/

Top 5 Ways Laptops Are Stolen
http://preyproject.com/blog/2012/10/tip-the-5-most-common-ways-laptops-are-stolen-and-how-to-avoid-them

Pictures From
Prey Project: software anti-robo
PreyProject.com
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,
Dekpient Ing

 

How-To: Start VBox VM Using Scripts / Command Lines

From my previous post on how to run Bootcamp in VirtualBox, I just realize I forget to mention this launching tip, so here it is.

VirtualBox is a fantastic freeware. I really love it. It may not be as feature rich or efficiently good as other paid alternatives like VMware or Parallel, but it offers lots of great functionality, and is in active development.

To start a virtual machine (of VirtualBox) using command lines:

In Mac or Linux, open Terminal and type

vboxmanage startvm (vmname)

replace (vmname) with yours, for example Ubuntu, press Enter. That’s it.

If you use Linux, you can save this as a script file, and use it to start the vm instead.

In Mac, there is a neat and pretty way to start vm as app, using AppleScript. In AppleScritp Editor, type

do shell script "vboxmanage startvm (vmname)"

and save the file as an Application.

Save as Applications
By launching this app, it starts your VM. You can also change its icon, so it looks pretty and easy to recognize. This is how mine looks. I use Windows and Ubuntu icons found from the Internet (so they’re not mine), so I can distinguish them and they blend in my Applications folder well enough.

VM icons

New Pretty Icons

For Windows, you use similar approach with batch files. In Notepad, type this 2 lines in

cd "c:\Program Files\Oracle\VirtualBox"

vboxmanage startvm (vmname)

save as .bat file, and there you go, double click it to start the specified virtual machine.

Tips: If you don’t know what is your vm name, use this commands in Dos or Terminal, :wink:

vboxmanage list vms

How To: Run Windows 7 (Bootcamp) in VirtualBox

Bootcamp is great and all, but… the fact that we have to reboot is not !

Sometimes you want to do a little task that really has to be run on Windows or there’s no alternative software for Mac, but you don’t want to reboot into Bootcamp to do it. And you want to keep Bootcamp, since it lets you run Windows to its potential. Well, VirtualBox can certainly help you ! It’s a great piece of freeware that I recently fell in love with.

It lets you startup Windows 7 that you have on Bootcamp as a virtual machine (VM) relatively easy. So the data stays in sync whether you boot up from Bootcamp or VBox inside Mac OS (since it’s really the same installation). Instead of creating a virtual hard disk file like normal virtual machine, it uses a small special file that essential let the VM access the real physical disk.

Step-by-step guide: Continue reading