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While everyone should always password-protect a Mac to prevent unauthorized use, not everyone does. Sometimes people share blanket filings, be it with a roommate, sibling, spouse, or whoever. If you’ve ever wondered if someone was using your computer while you were away, there’s actually a pretty easy method to find out in Mac OS X.
See if someone was using your Mac with console
This works best if you put a Mac to sleep while you are away, as we check for system wake events. If you don’t sleep on a Mac while away from the computer, start now to keep track of this wake data.
- Use Spotlight (Command + Space) to search for and open “Console”
- Click the search bar in the top right corner of Console and type “Wake” to sort the system logs by wake events
- Scroll to the bottom of the list to find the most recent events, search the listed data for a wake entry that matches the time you suspect someone used the computer
First you want to note the time, because that alone can give you the information you are looking for. In addition, by reading the reasons for waking up, you can see how the Mac was woken up up and with which method. For example Mac laptops will show “EC.LidOpen (User)” or “LID0” to indicate that the Mac was woken up by opening the lid of the screen. All Macs show EHC or EHC2 to show that the Mac was woken by touching the keyboard or trackpad. OHC or USB generally indicates that an external USB device or mouse was used to wake the Mac, and so on. Some of the exact syntax for wake reasons will vary by version of OS X, but most of the codes are similar enough to draw shared conclusions.
Here are some sample items of what you can see in Console: 2/24/12 3: 22: 26,000 PM kernel: Wake reason: EC.SleepTimer (SleepTimer) 2/24/12 3:40: 31,000 PM kernel: Wake- reason: EC.LidOpen (user) 2/24/2012 5:23:40 PM kernel: Wake-up reason: EC.SleepTimer (SleepTimer) 2/24/2012 8:11: 03,000 PM kernel: Wake-up reason: EC.LidOpen (user) 2/24/2012 9: 05: 09,000 PM kernel: Wake up reason: EC.LidOpen (user) 2/24/12 9: 32: 06,000 PM kernel: Wake up reason: EC.LidOpen (user) 2/25/12 00 : 51: 44.000 AM kernel: Wake up reason: EHC2
Ultimately, what you’re looking for is a date, time, or wake event that doesn’t match your own normal Mac usage. Maybe waking up to trackpad (EHC2) at midnight is suspicious, or maybe it was unusual for someone to open the lid of the laptop yesterday at 3:40 am. Ultimately it is up It is up to you to determine what is suspicious or misplaced, but by looking at system logs you can get data that is practically guaranteed to be accurate, as most users don’t think they will disrupt these logs.
Finding wake information from the command lineIf you’re more likely to use the command line, or if you want to monitor wake events on a remote Mac via SSH, try using grep with the syslog command to search for “Wake” or “Wake reason”:
syslog | grep -i “Awaken reason”
Using syslog with grep displays the exact same wake information as Console, but as it can be accessed from the command line it can be more powerful for advanced users.
Keep in mind that while syslog and Console track sleep and wake data, they don’t necessarily show login attempts and failures, or trigger a screen saver. In that case, the best protection to always remember is to set password protection on a Mac and lock the screen with a password, even if you are away for a few minutes, if you are in a situation where sensitive data could be compromised or can be opened by others.
You can find similar information on Windows machines as well, although you will have to look elsewhere for that.
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