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 How to Wipe a Mac Remotely with iCloud (and Get the Data Back)

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How to Wipe a Mac Remotely with iCloud (and Get the Data Back) Empty
PostSubject: How to Wipe a Mac Remotely with iCloud (and Get the Data Back)   How to Wipe a Mac Remotely with iCloud (and Get the Data Back) Icon_minitimeTue Aug 28, 2012 9:12 pm

Our first step was to turn on Find My Mac. This is done by heading to System Preferences > iCloud and checking the “Find My Mac” box. Doing so prompted OS X to inform us that Find My Mac can only be activated on one user account per machine. We set it to the primary user account (not the one we created for this test) and then closed System Preferences and other Compatible Parts .

Remote Lock

There are two options for iCloud users who fear their Mac may be stolen: lock and wipe. Curious, we tried out the lock first. Click on the Mac you wish to wipe or lock and then, once it’s located on the map, click the blue circle with the “i” character. This displays your options for locking, wiping, or playing a message or sound on your device and Compatible Parts .

Choose “Remote Lock” and iCloud will ask you for a four digit numeric passcode in order to unlock the Mac should you eventually recover it. Proceeding with the lock will cause the target Mac to reboot within about ten seconds of sending the command.

Instead of taking the user to the OS X desktop or login screen, when the Mac reboots it presents a grey screen requesting the correct unlock passcode. Successive failed attempts at entering the correct code will cause the system to prevent further attempts for increasing amounts of time.

The passcode screen which appears when the Mac is both in “Lock” and “Wipe” states.

We then attempted to access the data on the drives. While in a locked state, a user can reboot the Mac, but boot modifier keys such as Alt/Option to select a different drive and “T” to put the Mac into target disk mode, don’t work. Only the “R” key, which takes the user to Lion or Mountain Lion’s recovery partition is functional.

To see how far we could go, we then pulled the system drive and connected it to another Mac with a SATA to USB adapter and Laptop Keyboard . The drive mounted and we were able to see the data on the system drive, and copy it to another drive if necessary. The iCloud “lock” feature, therefore, is not secure if the individual in possession of your Mac has the skills or time to physically pull the hard drive.

Our questions about the remote lock answered, we put the hard drive back, booted, and entered the correct passcode. The Mac processed for a moment and then rebooted. Thankfully, it booted back into our user’s desktop and all the data was intact.

Remote Wipe

Now it was time to pull out the big gun and wipe the system. After logging back in to iCloud on another Mac, we sent the wipe command. This time it also asked us to set a passcode, and informed us that a wipe “may take up to a day to complete.”

The final confirmation for sending a Remote Wipe command.

Just as with the lock scenario, within about ten seconds of issuing the command, the target MacBook Pro shut down and then rebooted to the same grey screen requesting the passcode. Not wanting to interrupt the wipe process, we let the Mac sit overnight in this state.

The next morning, we found the Mac still at the passcode screen and other laptop part . Concerned that this process was taking too long to be effective, we decided to try and abort it by entering the correct passcode so that we could investigate the state of our data. We entered the correct passcode and, as it did when we entered the passcode in the “lock” scenario, the computer began to process…and process…and process. We watched the MacBook Pro show us the spinning beach ball for almost three hours before we gave up and performed a hard reboot of the system.

Upon rebooting, we were not greeted with the passcode screen or our user’s login screen. Instead the system booted us directly into the OS X Recovery Partition. We accessed Disk Utility and saw that the two internal drives were not mounting, but the external Time Machine drive seemed to have its data intact.

To verify the integrity of the Time Machine drive, we disconnected it from the MacBook Pro and connected it to another working Mac. The drive mounted quickly and all the data was intact on the drive, ready to restore the MacBook Pro once we reached that step.

Returning our attention to the MacBook Pro’s internal drives, we rebooted while holding down the Alt/Option key to access the boot manager: no dice. The only available partition was the recovery partition and our internal system drive didn’t show up at all. At least now we could now access boot modifier Compaq Keyboard keys, which was something we couldn’t do in the “lock” scenario or when the machine was in the “wipe” phase.

As a final test, we placed the MacBook Pro into target disk mode and connected it via Thunderbolt to another Mac. The other Mac instantly informed us that the drives in the MacBook Pro were not mounted and needed to be initialized, which we didn’t do to aid possible data recovery efforts. Initialization, usually only done before using new hard drives, wipes any remaining info from the drive’s “table of contents” and prepares the drive for new use. Initializing a drive won’t make data recovery impossible, but it certainly doesn’t help.

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How to Wipe a Mac Remotely with iCloud (and Get the Data Back)
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