A discussion thread posted to the Usenet newsgroup
alt.comp.lang.applescript is being touted far and wide as a success story for both Apple’s AppleScript technology and
Netopia’s Timbuktu Pro remote access software. Entitled “Remote-nuke a stolen iMac?” the story involves one Mac user’s attempt to recover an iMac stolen from his sister’s home in a burglary.
Timbuktu Pro enables users to remotely control another user’s machine over a network, including the Internet. The software was installed on R.D. Bridges’ sister’s iMac. Recognizing that Timbuktu Pro works over TCP/IP, R.D. Bridges suspected that whoever used the iMac would probably log on to the Internet without completely reformatting the hard drive.
Bridges then solicited help from other newsgroup users to figure out how to get personal information deleted from his hard drive if he could find a way to log onto the stolen iMac remotely. Some ideas were put forth, including a promising deletion AppleScript that Bridges dubbed the “Death Script.”
Ultimately the Death Script was loaded on the stolen iMac, and AppleScript mavens subscribed to the list offered other creative ideas for how to track down and recover the system. Ultimately, though, Bridges used more brute force methods, some savvy about the way certain Mac applications work, and some basic detective work to get his sister’s iMac home.
During a couple of sessions where he was able to gain access to the computer when the iMac’s new user was online, Bridges deleted sensitive information off the remote iMac’s hard drive, took a picture of the hard disk’s new name (which he suspected might be the same as the person using it) and then swapped out the Internet access software’s access numbers with his and his sister’s home phone numbers.
Bridges and his sister then received more than a dozen calls each, presumably from the computer itself used during subsequent Internet connection dialups — the phone number presented on their call ID systems was then used by police investigators to track down the location where the iMac had been most recently used.
Ultimately both the iMac and its Lexmark ink-jet printer were recovered and returned to their rightful owner. The new user was convicted of possession of stolen property and given a year’s probation, according to Bridges.