Prey Tracks Down Your Stolen Devices

Many of you may be familiar with Apple’s Find My iPhone service. Apple recently made the service free with its iOS 4.2 update. If your iDevice is lost or stolen Find My iPhone can locate it using the unit’s GPS functionality. Now take that concept and apply it to your laptop or Andriod device (and add some more features). You now have Prey, an open source project by Fork that helps you track down your lost or stolen devices.

If you report your device as missing, Prey will gather up all sorts of data and email you a report. You’ll receive a picture of whoever is using your laptop, a screenshot of what they’re doing, an approximate location, and much more. And if that alone hasn’t won you over, may be this will: it’s free.

Features

I can’t think of anything negative about Prey. It’s very light weight – just under 6 MB. Once it’s installed and running it’s hard to detect. Here are some more features of Prey that I thought were worth mentioning:

  • Geolocation – Prey uses the device’s GPS unit to detect location. Like most laptops nowadays there is no GPS unit, so Prey uses surrounding WiFi signals to triangulate an approximate location.
  • Picture of your thief – Most laptops have webcams. So of course Prey utilizes that functionality and snaps a picture of whoever is using your laptop.
  • Screenshot – Whatever your thief is doing, Prey will quietly capture a picture of it and send it your way.
  • List of apps - In addition to a screenshot of what your thief is doing you’ll also receive a list of programs that are open.

About

After you’ve registered and installed Prey, head over to your control panel at control.preyproject.com. From there you can tell Prey that your device is missing. You’ll instantly receive an email telling you it’s missing and to watch for a report in about 5 minutes.

I did a quick test on my netbook and found that it took exactly 13 minutes from the time I marked it as missing to when I received my first report. After the first report you’ll begin to receive another report about every 5 minutes. Click the image to the right for a screenshot of a report (don’t mind my smirky face).

Using Prey takes almost no effort. I highly suggest installing Prey on your laptop right now. You’ll never know when you might need it and you have nothing to lose. Free accounts allow you to add up to 3 devices and to receive 10 reports per device (meaning that once you hit your 11th report, the first report will be deleted). If you’re in need of adding more devices they offer Pro accounts for as little as $15 a month. Right now they’re offering a Micro account for just $5 a month.

If you find yourself having to use Prey because your device was actually stolen, the people behind Prey suggest: to contact the Police and give them as much information as you can. If they do recover your computer they’ll probably ask for its serial number or UUID, so if you don’t have that information you should request a hardware scan from Prey through the Control Panel.

Conclusion

Prey is a great service. It’s free. It provides priceless information, and it can help you protect your > $400 investment. I’d say you’re crazy not to install it.

Have a success story using Prey? Any reason you wouldn’t install Prey? Let us know in the comments.

Patrick is the founder and editor-in-chief of pinglio. He works as a system administrator and studied at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He currently lives in Chicago with his girlfriend and two dogs.
  • Mikecrules

    I’m PREYing I never need to use this… lolz

  • Lee

    Nice article!