Later update: I ended up re-writing this story for Medium and I added a lot more details there. No need to duplicate the article – Read the complete version here on medium.com.
Last week I got robbed. It was the evening of the first day of my annual leave. I had a perfect day on a deserted beach with my wife, kids and good friends. Everything from sea water temperature to local beer taste was perfect.
My Mac got stolen.
In the evening, while trying to locate an external battery in my backpack I noticed that most of my “gadgets” were missing and this includes a 15′ MacBook Pro Retina (early 2013) and charger, a Sony Nex-6 mirrorless camera with kit & tele lens, cables, batteries, memory cards, etc.
It was the first time I did get robbed and it felt horrible. Not so much about the financial loss (although I cannot ignore that and it clearly affects our work-flow and family budget) but the vulnerability feeling that immediately took over. The thief broke into our car and went through all the things we had in the trunk. I never took out my laptop – so he (or she?) did not know how valuable his prey might be.
Knowing that someone might reset my user password (and it’s very easy to do so from the recovery console) and look through my documents, emails and so on – or just look at pictures with my kids and wife from the camera memory card – makes me sick. Makes me want to do bad things to him.
So – what could one do when they get their Mac stolen? Find My Mac was active on the MacBook. So was Obicule’s Undercover software. Mac is still offline. And no, I did not have a firmware password – so if the thief has a Mac savvy friend he will just do a clean install of Mac OS and all my tracking abilities will be gone.
The only thing that will never change on my MacBook is the serial number. There is no official Apple channel that allows you to report a stolen serial number. Why?
How easy would it be for Apple to trigger a Mac OS update on on all active OS X versions that would hardcode a function that would immediately pull a flag if a Mac reported as stolen connects to the Internets? Who would not want to install that update?
(As a side note, this could be done for all iDevices and why not by all major hardware manufacturers in partnership with OS makers. It’s basically the same technique of tracking a stolen phone via it’s IMEI – something operators can do in partnership with PDs)
What then? Well – if the rightful owner, reports that serial number as being stolen – that Mac should be made unusable OTA. Every time you would boot the machine, a red flashing message should be displayed announcing that the Mac has been stolen and display the owner contact details. This would prevent stolen Macs from being sold in the first place. Eventually thieves would stop stealing Macs because they wouldn’t be able to monetise them. Location tracking could also be enabled based on serial number only – so that it works even if the thief hacks my account or reinstalls the OS.
If I want to legitimately sell my Mac or just change it’s owner – I would just have to type in the Apple ID of the new owner in a special form and the serial number (and the ability to report a theft for it) would get transferred to that new account.
Would new Mac sales decrease because of that? That much so that Apple is justified not to make this move?
Apple – you are doing some amazing things – and you’ve given us such great products and amazing technology. People paying a premium price for Apple products deserve such a theft protection mechanism. Having it will actually increase sales – because guess what – knowing that a Mac cannot get stolen will determine more people to buy one. I’m sure you great engineers can perfect the idea and turn it into a (thief) killer feature!
If your Mac was stolen or you are scared it might be in the future, help me get Apple attention by tweeting the bellow:.@tim_cook - loved the keynote! Could you do this to prevent all Macs from getting stolen? Click To Tweet
And as for the scumbag that stole my Mac, this is for you:
I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you
let my daughter go nowreturn my MacBook now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.