A Santa Cruz woman is using Leopard’s Back to My Mac remote control software to track a thief who stole her laptop.
The woman, named Joey, had her MacBook and iPhone stolen from her truck. The thief didn’t wipe the MacBook, and Joey was able to log on remotely every time the crook connected to the internet using Back To My Mac. Built-into OS X, Back To My Mac allows administrators to take full control of machines over the Net.
Joey was able to remove sensitive data; copy and delete files; and then spy on the thief using the MacBook’s built-in iSight camera.
The crook spends a lot of time in cafes using free WiFi to search file sharing networks for software, music and movies.
As the crook surfed the Net, Joey was able to compile a full profile for police, including his Gmail account, home IP address, mother’s maiden name, and even snap clear pictures showing the detail of his tattoos.
Santa Cruz police are reportedly issuing a warrant to arrest the thief.
Time Machine, the automated back-up system built into Mac OS X Leopard, has been justly celebrated for making the least-fun of all computer practices easy. At the touch of a button, you can find every revision of every single one of your files on hand at the time of its installation. Unfortunately, as Steven Fisher recently discovered, this comes with an ugly side effect: Even executable code can get run from Time Machine. Cool as that might sound, the consequences could be grim:
Let me give you a simple example: You find out Adium (for example) has an available exploit that the developers haven’t patched yet. You remove Adium, but it continues to exist in your backup. You visit a web page that activates the Adium bug, and Adium is launched from your backup. That you can launch Adium from your backup is not a bug. That Mac OS X will do so automatically without confirmation is a bug. The backup should be considered a vault for the user, not Launch Services.
Yikes. Rogue code is bad. Rogue code that you have to go out of your way to re-delete from your archives? Really nasty. Apple, let’s get a fix going.