Cheap; easy to install
No remote wipe/lock; susceptible to reformatting
US$15 per year
If a clueless thief makes off with your Mac, Hidden could help you get it back.
Hidden is one of a number of services designed to keep tabs on your Mac should it be stolen. Once installed it runs in the background but doesn’t appear in your list of installed apps or the system preferences panel. The software lurks behind the scenes, waiting to be told that your Mac is in the wrong hands.
Should disaster strike, you can log into Hiddenapp.com and mark your Mac as stolen. Next time your Mac connects to the internet, Hidden will start surreptitiously taking photos with the webcam, capturing screen shots and pinpointing your Mac’s location in Google Maps using the SkyHook service.
This information is uploaded to Hiddenapp.com along with network data such as IP address, traceroute and ifconfig. All these details should be enough to convince the cops to pay your friendly neighbourhood thief a visit, although recent newspaper reports indicate Australian police are sometimes slow to act.
Hidden is underwhelming if you’re expecting the advanced features of a service such as Apple’s Find My iPhone. The fact Find My Mac is coming to Mac OS X 10.7 also makes Hidden less attractive for some Mac users.
One of Hidden’s shortcomings is that, unlike some services, it doesn’t offer remote wipe and lock features or the ability to flash a message on the screen. Of course, if you’re concerned about your data, you should be using FileVault and a strong password on your Mac’s user account.
Hidden can run from the login screen, but this is no use if your Mac isn’t connected to a nearby Wi-Fi network. As such the developers recommend you create a limited Guest account on your Mac with no password – to tempt the thief to test out their ill gotten gains and thus improve Hidden’s chances of reporting back.
Whether or not Hidden delivers you a happy snap of your thief depends on how tech-savvy they are. If you’re lucky, they’ll be dumb enough to take home your Mac, connect to their Wi-Fi network and start surfing the web from their kitchen table.
If they’re tech-savvy and paranoid they’ll quickly look to replace and/or reformat the hard drive in an effort to foil tracking attempts. They might fire up your Mac without connecting to a Wi-Fi network and look at the Activity Monitor to see if an app such as Hidden is running.
While they can’t uninstall Hidden without your password, they can wipe the hard drive and reinstall Mac OS. Setting a firmware password on your Mac and disabling booting from removable devices is designed to foil this, but there are workarounds.
Competing tracking systems such as LoJack install themselves in your Mac’s firmware and are harder to detect and bypass than software such as Hidden.
One of the frustrating things about Hidden is that it doesn’t start tracking your Mac until you log in to the website and mark it as stolen. So if you’re robbed while away for a long weekend, the thieves could have days to tinker with your Mac and neutralise Hidden while it lies idle.
Competing services such as Prey Pro can record your Mac’s location and report back regularly, offering a greater chance of successfully phoning home than Hidden.
Macworld Australia’s buying advice
Hidden presents a handy insurance policy, but only if you’re lucky enough to have your Mac stolen by a thief who won’t try too hard to circumvent it. Chances are your thief won’t be that tech-savvy, but if you’re really paranoid and have extra to spend then you’ll find more deeply embedded services are more resistant to tampering.