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Mac Security Alarm System 243

Posted by samzenpus
from the get-kicked-out-of-the-office dept.
RogueAce writes "A program named iAlertU sounds a screeching siren when someone attempts to steal your Macbook. Thanks to the sudden motion drop sensors that Macs use to park the hard drive, iAlertU can detect when your Macbook is being picked up, moved or closed. Also, by using the handy remote that comes with the Macbook, you can turn the alarm on and off like you would a car, which the Macbook responds to by making the all too familiar chirping sound and a flash and flicker of the screen. The code behind it is from a guy named Christian Kleins."
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Mac Security Alarm System

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  • But... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Crasoum (618885) on Friday April 07, 2006 @11:58PM (#15089482) Journal
    Will people ignore it just like a car alarm?
    • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Neoprofin (871029) <neoprofin AT hotmail DOT com> on Saturday April 08, 2006 @12:10AM (#15089512)
      Probably not until you've heard it for the thousandth time. So the one guy in your office who keeps coming back from lunch and forgetting to turn it off the alarm, will as usual, ruin it for everyone.
      • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fastgood (714723) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @12:42AM (#15089588)
        the one guy in your office who keeps coming back from lunch and forgetting to turn it off

        Make an audible alarm that only goes off when the patented magnetic power cord [apple.com] is detached (accidental or otherwise).

        * or remotely trigger a second magnet -- hidden in a backpack -- to pull your new $25/ounce toy out of the wrong hands.

        • Re:But... (Score:3, Funny)

          by BillyBlaze (746775)
          Slashdot is one of those few places where saying something is "patented" doesn't make it sound cooler.
        • Re:But... (Score:2, Funny)

          by drspliff (652992)
          $25/ounce..

          Whoah dude, if I stopped smoking weed for a few months, I'd easily be able to buy one of these little babys (only to get it stolen a few days later).
      • Re:But... (Score:3, Funny)

        by binkzz (779594)
        For colleagues we offer the optional iHammer, which offers a revolutionary batteryless alarm disabling system.
    • by hey! (33014)
      How but a nice cool female voice, repeating, over the alarm sound: "Danger. Autodestruct sequence activated. Clear the area immediately..."
  • But... (Score:2, Funny)

    by artificialj (873081)
    Can you get flashy rims on your macbook?
  • One Tiny Loophole: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dteichman2 (841599) on Friday April 07, 2006 @11:59PM (#15089488) Homepage
    What happens if say.... the computer isn't turned on? It's a neat idea, but it has a severe shortcoming. People don't steal computers (usually) while they're still on. They make off with them when you leave the bag unattended.
    • by tonydiesel (658999) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @12:46AM (#15089604)
      Aah, but see here's a difference for Mac users. Most of us never turn our computers off, we just put them to sleep...

      So, the real question is... what happens when the computer is asleep?? Does it still work?
      • by havardi (122062)
        Nope. I think everything shuts down except the memory is kept alive. That's why they can sleep forever, unlike PC laptops that may or may not sleep for very long at all (or wake up for that matter). I've seen a mac sleep for more than a week and still have plenty of juice
        • by friedmud (512466)
          Not too deviate too far from the conversation... but all _real_ PC laptops (ie those with mobile chips, not those "desktop replacements") can do this as well...

          My tabletPC _never_ gets turned off... and can sleep for well over a week and still have plenty of juice after a full charge.

          Friedmud
          • by ediron2 (246908) *
            Thinkpads, Dells, Compaqs, sonys, toshibas... In a decade and under five major brands, including the last 4 doing software QA *USING* a lab of several different models of Sony's and Toshibas, I have *YET* to have a stock Windows laptop handle hibernate/awaken 100% properly. Some app or service or driver won't resurface, the machine corrupts a working file every tenth restart, some app starts hemorrhaging memory (forcing a reboot within an hour), rarely the machine locks up completely, or whatever.

            It also t
            • You are comparing two completely different things.

              I agree with you that Hibernate is pretty crappy... and as you say it doesn't work all the time. But I'm not talking about Hibernate... I'm talking about "Sleep".

              "Sleep"ing is the same thing that macs do... they are still "on" but the hardrive is spun down, all peripherals are powered down and so is the screen. On my laptop the power light blinks while in sleep... just like on a mac.

              It only takes a couple of seconds to recover from this state (just like on
        • by netsharc (195805)
          There are 2 different sleep modes: Suspend To RAM, where the computer is off except for the RAM, which is constantly recharged so it doesn't lose its contents, and Suspend to Disk (the so-called Hibernation in Windows), where the data from RAM is saved to disk, and the computer is really powered off. Both resume where you left off (all applications open, etc), but Suspend to RAM is quicker because it doesn't need to read the data from disk, but STR also eats up the juice because, as I said, the RAM chips ne
    • The only time I put my laptop down in a public place is when it is turned on... otherwise it's in my shoulder bag, which I'm wearing.

      All in all, I think this is a really cleaver idea. I see it being especially valuable within academic institutions.

      That said, if you're really concerned about security a lock, although not full proof, is the way to go.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 08, 2006 @12:00AM (#15089491)
    Car alarms are useless enough. Do any of you run to see if a theft is in progress when you hear one? Neither do I, because we've all heard too many of them.

    And people can't even remember to turn off their cell phone ringers. What makes you think they're going to remember to turn off their laptop theft alarms?
    • "Car alarms are useless enough. Do any of you run to see if a theft is in progress when you hear one? Neither do I, because we've all heard too many of them."

      That's a bit of a simplistic view. If my car alarm goes off, I go check on it and make sure somebody hasn't broken a window or something. I've seen others around the complex do this, too. Even if somebody did break into my car and I didn't hear it, they still wouldn't easily be able to start it. When the alarm goes off, it kills the ignition.

      All t
  • Obstrusive? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by immakiku (777365) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @12:00AM (#15089494)
    How many people are going to want to lock and unlock the laptop everytime they walk away? I know a lot of people barely want to do the WinXP windows+L everytime, much less lock and unlock with a remote control.
    • I really don't have a problem with Windows+L, but having to carry around a remote (and remembering to carry it) to lock/unlock the computer would be a pain.
    • You could use a bluetooth cellphone such that when you are no longer proximal and the device is dropped, it can lock the computer. Sailing Clicker has a trick like that for the screen saver and sleep - "sleep when I walk away" or "lock screen when I walk away"
    • I would/do. I have a hotspot set up on my monitor and lock my screensaver whenever I leave my computer, even in secure locations on clients' premises. The only place I don't do this is at home, but I also have the screensaver come on after 10 minutes anyway. Additionally, I have File Vault turned on which encrypts my home directory.

      I also use a physical lock to secure my powerbook to a desk if I'm in an environment I'm a little sketchy about, and of course in somewhere like a Starbucks or an airport I'

  • by Devil's BSD (562630) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @12:02AM (#15089497) Homepage
    Anyone know if this can be adapted for the Thinkpad's active protection system? It's pretty much the same thing, as far as I know...
  • by Parallax Blue (836836) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @12:08AM (#15089506)
    ...unlike a car. When someone tries to steal a car and a car alarm goes off, the car itself isn't going anywhere (although you may have a broken window or two.) Unfortunately, when someone tries to steal a Macbook and the iAlertU alarm goes off, I don't think the Macbook will fare too well as a result. Most likely it would be dropped out of sheer surprise, or dropped/thrown in the process of trying to escape the irate Mac owner and the local security guards.

    Still, I suppose even an inoperable Macbook with the hard drive intact is better than having all your corporate and personal data stolen.
    • There is a video linked on the page that shows it to be enormously sensitive, basically sounding the moment the laptop senses the slightest movement. Of course the actual program doesn't appear to be released (strange that unreleased vapour is given a Slashdot story, but whatever), however it seems legitimate given that it's using a library someone else created, already demonstrated to provide this sort of functionality (e.g. using a Mac laptop as a level).

      Odd that the values from a hard drive protection me
  • Good to know... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by irving47 (73147) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @12:14AM (#15089517) Homepage
    I'll remember to plug my headphones in the next time I need a new MacBook.
    • Heh... that's almost as good a hack as disabling copy protection by holding the shift key.
    • Re:Good to know... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Phroggy (441) * <.moc.yggorhp. .ta. .3todhsals.> on Saturday April 08, 2006 @03:01AM (#15089887) Homepage
      When you plug headphones into a Mac, the audio is rerouted away from the speakers in software, not hardware. This allows things like USB speakers to work, so when you plug headphones in, it mutes the USB speakers. So, in theory, this software should be able to override that and always use the built-in speakers even if headphones are plugged in. (I doubt the current feature has this feature, and it probably wouldn't be easy to implement, but it should be possible.)
      • The system already allows for separate outputs for alerts and normal sound out. From the System Preferences you can select the built in speakers for all alerts while still using external speakers/headphones for iTunes. And this setting does not change even if someone were to plug in a headphone jack. So, chances are that this would be simple to implement using the built in system libraries for audio.

        NarratorDan
  • nice feature (Score:3, Informative)

    by v1 (525388) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @12:18AM (#15089533) Homepage Journal
    That's a nice novel use for an otherwise unrelated technology. I'm sure the SMS wasn't intended for security, but it works well for it.

    As for being off... I wonder, does anything run while the laptop is asleep? My powerbook has probably spent less than 5 minutes turned off in the last four months. Most users close the lid and sleep it. (my powerbook draws the same 2 watts when it's asleep as when it's off, so why bother turning it off?)

    A firmware hack might enable the alarm to wake up the book if it's moved. I assume the PMU/SMU is controlled by flashable firmware. Also, the SMS is in the older powerbooks also - this article only mentions the macbook pros, I wonder if it works in the older models also?
  • by buckhead_buddy (186384) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @12:23AM (#15089548)
    This is great news. There's a coffee shop in my town with a friendly college crowd and free Wi-Fi networking.

    My problem arises when I take my old Powerbook in there and realize I need to use the restroom. The crowd is pretty honest and I'm pretty quick in the facilities, but I really hate packing up my whole setup and taking it into the stall with me. This might allow me that feeling of security to leave my old Powerbook out while I take care of business.

    While there's still some risk involved, it sounds like this will be just the thing to make me:

    • Carefree and proud to be a Mac owner.
    • Careless about risks and have my computer stolen.
    • Embarassed when someone bumps my table and I'm caught with my pants down.

    I'd probably risk this with my old model Powerbook, but I don't think I'd do so if I upgraded to a new MacBook Pro.

    • "Embarassed when someone bumps my table and I'm caught with my pants down."

      Look on the bright side: If you keep pulling your pants down while browsing the web at a coffee shop, sooner or later you'll see a rise in available bandwidth.
    • ahh, so you're one of those pretentious gits who HAVE to ostentatiously show off their Macs/PCs in public while having a coffee and hogging the table while doing so and probably only having the one coffee for the whole morning...

      deity I hate it when trying to get a coffee in any place that has free wifi... it's usually heaving with people who're browsing and have long since finished their drinks/food. As far as I'm concerned, you lose your entitlement to seatspace when you finish your drink and whatever f

      • As far as I'm concerned, you lose your entitlement to seatspace when you finish your drink and whatever food you purchased.

        Obviously you've never been to a real cafe like in Europe. There, once you've got a table, you've got it for as long as you want, and they won't bother you to leave. Granted, others may come up and sit in the seat across from you, but some interesting and fun conversations can start that way.
      • ... so you're one of those pretentious gits who HAVE to ostentatiously show off their Macs/PCs in public ...

        In my experience, people who complain about such things invariably lack such things of their own and so resent those who do because they have something the others don't.

        Anyway, where would it be OK for people to use their laptops? Only at home or the office? Might as well use a desktop computer then. The point of a laptop is to use it in various places, including public places.

        As far as I'

    • All Mac laptops (worth owning) have a Kensington Security Slot. You need to buy either a Kensington lock or a small tab that fits into the slot and allows a cable to pass through it. Remember, you aren't protecting your laptop for hours, rather, you are making it difficult to pick it up from the table and walk away.
    • My problem arises when I take my old Powerbook in there and realize I need to use the restroom.

      Because actually making social contact with someone and saying "Would you keep an eye on this while I use the restroom?" is too scary?

      Seriously, why are you IN the coffeeshop? A coffee you can't make at home? At $3 a cup? If coffee were the real reason then buying some brew-gadget would pay itself off quickly and you could stay in your jammies.

      No, you're likely in the coffee shop for the social aspect. The

      • No, you're likely in the coffee shop for the social aspect. The people watching. The camaraderie. So you're NOT alone typing away in an empty room.

        Next time put a warning message on posts like this. I got to this part and nearly freaked out. Social contact? Typing with others in the room with me?"camaraderie"? I was afraid if I kept reading, you might mention talking to people and maybe making eye contact with a girl.

        Too much for me to take on a Saturday morning, sorry.
    • Just make friends with the staff and let one of them know you're using the restroom and to keep and eye on your laptop... though you're stil at risk for a planned heist... at least you'll start getting free coffee now and then ;-p

  • by pHatidic (163975) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @12:34AM (#15089574)
    I'd recommend Undercover by Orbicule [orbicule.com]. It runs continuously in the background, and if your laptop is ever stolen then you call up the company and they set it to transmit it's location every time it connects to a network. Of course since my laptop has never actually been stolen I can't really tell you whether it works or not.
    • If someone is bent on getting a $4000 MacBook Pro for free, he may well be smart enough to

      #!. Pull the battery
      #2. Pull the hard drive
      #3. & thus never allow anything to run off the original hard drive
      • Well, never underestimate the stupidity of some theives. At my old school, a couple of guys walked into a lesser used computer lab in broad daylight with some maintance-looking clothes, disconnected a couple of computers, and walked out with them. No one paid them any attention, and thus the police and security didn't have a good description of the criminals to go off of. It took a lot of guts, but they probably would have gotten away with it - if they weren't stupid enough to plug the computers into the
    • My Powerbook was stolen last year from my apartment. It automatically syncs with .Mac every day and I was hoping I could somehow track it this way (since you can see the "last sync" of all the computers associated with your .Mac account on any one, I was going to call Apple when I saw that my Powerbook synced again) but it never connected to the internet again, or they wiped it clean before it was used again.
    • The problem with Orbicule's approach is that their software can easily be removed by wiping the disk. Orbicule claims [orbicule.com] that setting a firmware password would help, but at least in PPC macs the OF password can be reset [securemac.com] by changing the amount of RAM installed and then zapping PRAM three times, thus offering virtually no protection against thieves. It would be nice if unauthorised physical access to DIMM slots could be hardened somehow, so that complete disassembling of the laptop would be necessary to change t
      • It would be nice if unauthorised physical access to DIMM slots could be hardened somehow, so that complete disassembling of the laptop would be necessary to change the amount of RAM.

        Oh right, as if it isn't a tech support nightmare enough to let Mac users upgrade their memory, now you want to make it impossible to do so? Just encrypt your damn data with filevault and you'll be fine. Sure, you'll lose your MacBook, but your data will be safe unless Russians or the NSA stole it.

        • Huh? What part of “unauthorised access” you did not understand? Just make it possible to somehow lock the memory door, so that only you yourself or authorised service personnel can access the slots.

          And FWIW, I have filevault on in my PowerBook. But this is all about recovering stolen machines and/or preventing theft altogether, not data safety.
  • by iamacat (583406) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @01:10AM (#15089665)
    This turns off the notebook without any software overrides (otherwise you wouldn't be able to restart after a bad OS crash). Then steal all you want.
  • by antdude (79039) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @01:28AM (#15089706) Homepage Journal
    The poster didn't mention it, but there is a streaming video [youtube.com] showing this alarm in action. Quite amusing to me.
  • by RootsLINUX (854452) <rootslinux AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday April 08, 2006 @01:47AM (#15089740) Homepage
    What if you have the audio muted or really silent, or the thief plugs in headphones? What if the laptop goes into sleep mode? What if the battery runs out, or, if the laptop is plugged in, they unplug it and wait for the battery to die?

    There are too many ways around this so called "security" mechanism to be anything more than a gimmick. Although I will credit it because a theif that has no idea about or previous experience with this software is going to get caught red handed. :)
    • And intelligent bank robbers get away every day.... not to mention burlars who can disable your home / car alarms, etc....

      An alarm is only there to prevent stupid thieves, which is why they only lower your insurance for theft... not render it meaningless.

    • What if you pull the battery, do this do that whatever. Too complicated.

      What if the theif simply carries a sound-proof case in which to put his new prize?

      Cheap, simple, fast, works for any laptop, etc.

      You guys talking about plugging in headphones and doing on-the-spot mods are thinking too hard. Think like someone on the prowl for a laptop:

      The problem is that it might make noise. You want the noise to stop. So you carry a well-insulated case and beat your feet, which any decent "office creeper" thief is
  • rfid? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by icepick101 (901550)
    Why not use some type of RFID system, where the owner keeps an RFID tag in his/her pocket. Once they move too far away from the laptop (2 or 3 feet?), the alarm sounds. Rather than making a conscious effort to arm the laptop, it would be automatic.
  • by Paska (801395) * on Saturday April 08, 2006 @03:47AM (#15089950) Homepage
    This setup may not offer the best line of security, but it would had saved the Macbook we have in our retail store. (Apple Australia)

    We had a group of normal gentleman come in, two of them starting a conversation with our sales staff. The other gentleman who came in walked around to browse, and without being seen by our sales staff who were busying talking to the other man used bolt cutters to cut the metal wire security device and placed the Macbook in a bag and walked out.

    This was all caught on video, but there's not much we can do now since we can't identify any of them.

    Our store manager considered options to prevent this in the future but everything was just to expansive.

    Until I implement our own in-house security system (Network based, if a local server is unable to ping a particular desktop/laptop it'll sound an audible alarm) I'll be installing this software on our Macbooks.
    • Until I implement our own in-house security system (Network based, if a local server is unable to ping a particular desktop/laptop it'll sound an audible alarm) I'll be installing this software on our Macbooks.

      But customers will always want to jiggle them, and you don't want to frighten them away.

      Stores like harvey norman seem to have a system with a wire attached to a little box stuck to the back of phones, palm tops, etc. There is a LED on the little box to show you that something will happen if the wir

  • He took some cigarettes, a few notes, a mobile phone...

    He also took my laptop out of its case, opened the screen, turned it on and booted to the Windows login screen. And that's how I found it.

    It wasn't a bad a little laptop.

    I wonder...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      He also took my laptop out of its case, opened the screen, turned it on and booted to the Windows login screen. And that's how I found it.

      He was looking for a Linux laptop maybe? :)
  • this thread has some of the worst, most redundant comments i've ever seen.

    I don't think an alarm will stop anyone from stealing a $2000 laptop. maybe a $400 laptop, but not a macbook pro.
  • by Skevin (16048) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @10:43AM (#15090737) Journal
    I work in an office where stolen property is nearly a common occurance (a stranger came in and simply sauntered off with a petty cash box the day I started working there). To guard against this, I keep my Mac Decoy Pro in my desk.

    What's a Mac Decoy Pro, you ask? It's an extra nonworking Macbook Pro. Looks just like the real functional thing, just sitting there waiting to be taken.

    Where did I get it? Well, when I heard that Powerbooks were going to use Intel processors, I bought a Macbook Pro with the express intention of swapping out the hard drive, memory and processor: the first two I did with nary more than a dented/warped casing. The latter... well, my screwdriver slipped and broke several components off the main board. I tried the purchase just the notebook mainboard from Apple, but essentially, they told me to go screw myself*. So with a heavy heart and a sigh of resignation, I did what any self respecting geek would do: I played poker for an hour until I had enough to buy another Macbook Pro. I've reassembled the broken one, which I leave out in the open in my cubicle when I go home at night. If it gets stolen, then that's my alarm indicator that it's time to leave the company.

    * I'm still wondering that "incredible level of service" I keep hearing from Mac users.

    Solomon
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 08, 2006 @11:41AM (#15090924)
    In the last two years I worked for a company that had a handful of laptops with custom GPS hardware inside the cases. No software controls, just hardware added to the inside of the case set to transmit under certain circumstances. They also had software to report back to a central server whenever they were connected to the internet.
    Laptop was stolen, theft was noticed, word went out. Laptop booted up, transmitter in laptop transmited. Laptop booted from CD without going into the case and turning the transmitter off, laptop began transmitting continously. Windows format and install takes a while, so the signal was transmitted for more than an hour. Some wandering around with recievers until company security was sure they had the right apartment. Police called and informed of the situation and that company security is going to get the laptop back, now, would the police like to meet them there?
    End result was laptop recovered in less than 12 hours, and thief in jail for felony theft. The laptop was gone longer as evidence than it was gone with the thief.
    It is expensive, it is not perfect, and I have no idea how you would get it into a case with as little freespace as a
    Mac laptop, but it can work very well.
    I would be more specific but I signed one of those NDA's that some companies love so much.
    The main starting problems would be the usual, cost, how to fit it in the case and maybe power consumption. Also, a big hurdle might be getting the police to declare a GPS signal probable cause to go into where ever the laptop is. Especially if the signal is not currrently transmitting. My previous employers solved that last one by sending there own people and then reporting the whole mess to the police, but most of us individuals don't have those resources. (Maybe that is a good thing, should /. readers be trusted with our own armed security? I know I shouldn't be. :) )
  • from Steve Jobs to Christian Kleins:

                    "What the hell did I ever do to you?"
  • by aliquis (678370) <dospam@gmail.com> on Saturday April 08, 2006 @01:53PM (#15091530) Homepage
    So what stops someone else from turning of your elite alarm?
  • by edunbar93 (141167) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @02:04PM (#15091575)
    Most laptops get stolen in airport terminals. What will be the point of having an alarm go off when the laptop is picked up, when the user is constantly picking it up himself?
  • IBM advertised their "drop-resistant" laptops over a year ago with the same G-sensing,
    head-parking technology. Any reason why the same type of program wouldn't work on IBM (now Lenovo) notebooks or any manufacturers using similar technology?

    -l

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