Laptop users: Prey Project, a free anti-theft solution

The other day, I was WhatsApp’ing a friend of mine in Norway. She told me she was at work – on a weekend? – and that she had just frightened a burglar away, but he had nonetheless managed to steal a laptop.

My immediate response was, for the future, install and configure Prey Project which is a free anti-theft service. I’m not sure I agree with the word “anti-theft,” but in case of theft, Prey Project might help you by gathering and providing you with data.

Here’s how it works.

You download and install a tiny piece of software which will run in the background. As part of the installation, you provide an email address and a password which is used to create an account on Prey Project’s website. You receive an email to activate the account.

The whole process takes about 5-10 minutes, from download through to activation. From now on, your laptop will periodically check with the website, essentially asking ”

Have I been reported as stolen? No? Oh, ok. Good. I’ll go back to sleep.”

What happens next is…not much. That is, until your laptop gets stolen.

As soon as you realize that your laptop has been stolen, run – don’t walk – to their web site, log in and “report” your laptop as being stolen. Now, the next time your laptop asks “Have I been reported as stolen?” it will be told that indeed it has and it will start to collect data: geolocation data, network information (such as the name of the wireless network it’s connected to, IP addresses, nearby wireless hotspots), screenshot, picture of user from webcam (don’t put tape over your webcam!), and other info. You have access to this data and can print it and take it to the police so they have something to work with.

It’s not an anti-theft solution, but it does give you a fighting chance to get your laptop back.

Highly recommended. Works on Windows, Mac OS X, Ubuntu, Linux, Adroid and soon, iOS. Although I am directing this towards laptop users, it does work with desktops, too. It’s just that laptops are easier to steal.



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About zonkeringeneva

An American with a German son living in Geneva with a new Boxer-Labrador puppy name Xoë. I can be found on Facebook (kicking and screaming!), Google Plus (crickets), (I'm Zonker), and Ask me anything IT related. I'm sure I'll have something useful to say.

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