Prey

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Overview

Prey is an open source anti-theft software program that monitors your computer's status and broadcasts information when stolen. It consists of a software program and an online account to broadcast activity to. Prey is free and recommended for users who are often in public areas. Using this program may help cut down on laptop theft on campus.

How it works

When a device is reported as stolen, Prey uses Wi-Fi connections to send information to your email via an online account. Prey uses Geolocation to pin point the device's location (much like a GPS). If there is a webcam installed on the device, it takes photos which may be used as evidence and may even identity the thief. You may also take screen shots of your computer, remotely lock the device, or even hide various data like passwords. Newer versions may also include an alarm and other features. *

Compatibility

Prey works with Windows, Linux, and Mac OSX (10.5 or higher, 10.4 must be manually installed, see Troubleshoot). There is also a mobile version for Android phones. There is not an iPhone/iPad version as of December 2010; the release date for such version has not been announced.

Installation

First sign up for an account, this account is considered the "control panel." It the remote access account that communicates with software program on the device. Go "control.preyproject.com/" and click on "Not Registered? Sign Up". When creating an account, you are allowed a total of 3 devices to monitor. A verification email will be sent to you. Please make sure that you are using an email address that you use actively.

Next you will need to register the device you want to monitor. Log into "control.preyproject.com" and under the tab "devices," find the green link and "Add a New Device." Enter the basic information for this device. This is merely to meant to label the device you want to monitor, you will continue with the installation process and will need to edit the preferences later online. After adding, you find the API key under Account Information, this will be used later.

Next the Prey Configuration Tool needs to be downloaded onto the device. Go to "preyproject.com/download" and select the appropriate version. After downloading, run the Prey Setup Wizard.

Tip: When choosing a start menu folder, it may not be wise to call it "Prey," name the folder something bogus, and sounds similar to a popular software program ex. "PaintPro," "AdobeXPF", "Notepad5". If a thief knows the file name, they have the capability of uninstalling Prey. Be creative and remember what you called it.

When finishing the wizard, run the Prey Configurator. You will now need your API Key and the email address associated with your prey account. This will link the Control Panel (online account) and the Configurator. After finishing the Prey Configurator, you may now go online and change your preferences in the Control Panel. **

Under the device tab, select the device that you want to edit. When the device is missing, click and drag the switch to "Yes" and information collection and reporting will begin. Reports are sent as emails to your email account. Under the User Settings tab, make sure that Notifications and Auto-Update are enabled.

Under "Information to gather", as a user you may select how you want Prey to collect and send reports. Geo means that the device will either use an internal GPS or the nearest Wi-Fi connections as a point of reference. Selecting "on" ensures that the device will attempt to report this.

Under Network, you select preferences on the collection of networking information, find nearby Wi-Fi access points relative to the device, and trace the network pathway of the device.

Under Session, this collects information from the desktop. You make take a screenshot (a captured image of your desktop) and collect information about files that may be modified.

Under Webcam, you may enable it to take photos. This will help identify the theft or show information about the location. Notice, this works for laptop webcams. It may not work if a webcam needs to be plugged in.*

"Actions to Perform" provides additional features. Please note in versions 0.4 or higher, if enabled the preferences under this tab WILL run regardless whether reported as stolen or not. Therefore these can be enabled any time, even during theft. The Alarm will go off every 30 seconds and can be pretty annoying. Alert will change the wallpaper of the desktop and notify the thief that you are onto his/her trail. Lock, if enabled will lock the computer until the proper password is given. Never give out your password. Secure hides emails, deletes browser cookies, and deletes stored passwords. Do not enable these features unless you really really really want to.

Uninstall

This is not recommended. But if needed, to remove the online account aspect of this, log into your control panel at "control.preyproject.com" and go to the Account tab. There is a purple button that says "Delete Account."

On your computer/device:

You will need Administrative Privileges. If you're using Windows, run the uninstaller from the Start menu (in case you don't find it, look for the Uninstall.exe file in "platform\windows under your Prey installation path"). This is why it is recommended to name the file something other than "Prey" and remember what you named it.

If you're using Ubuntu, open the package manager (Synaptic) and mark "prey" for removal from the installed package list. Then click on Apply and watch it fade away.

If you're a Mac user, simply download the package and click on the Uninstall icon after opening the DMG file.

If you're a Fedora/SUSE/Arch/etc user, you need to remove the folder where Prey was installed (by default /usr/share/prey) and additionally the respective crontab line for the user who runs Prey, which should be root. You can do so in the terminal (remember the dollar sign is used only for reference):

 $ sudo rm -Rf /usr/share/prey
 $ (sudo crontab -l | grep -v prey) | sudo crontab -

Troubleshooting

Check the installed version of Prey:

In Windows (Vista or 7)

Open My Computer and browse to the path you selected to install Prey to (by default, it's simply C:\Prey, unless you renamed it). Now look for the platform folder and then open the windows folder within it. You should see a couple of files and in between them one named check (check.bat). Double click on it and you're done.

If you get a message similar to "The system cannot find the path specified", then you can run Prey in check mode by opening a DOS prompt (Winkey + R and "cmd"), and typing:

 cd c:\prey (your Prey installpath)
 platform\windows\bin\bash.exe prey.sh --check

On Mac and Linux

Open up a terminal (in Mac you can find it under Applications > Utilities) and type in the following:

 sudo /usr/share/prey/prey.sh --check

After pressing enter, you should be asked for a password. Then you should see Prey's check mode results.

Prey is not running

In Windows computers, some antivirus control what programs can and cannot run. Your anti-virus program may identify Prey as a false positive, and thus is disabling it from being run. If this is your case, then you need to add an exception to your antivirus, stating that the cron.exe executable from Prey (located in the platform\windows folder on your Prey installation path) is not a malicious program, and therefore it should be allowed to run.

If such file cannot be found, create the exception and reinstall Prey afterwards.

On Mac and Linux computers, it may be possible (although quite improbable) that the cron service isn't running, or that the crontab entry for the root user somehow got removed. Open up the terminal and run:

 sudo /etc/init.d/cron start

I'm running Mac OS 10.4.

Download the Prey for Mac Zip file from "preyproject.com/releases"

Unzip it and move it to /usr/share/prey

Create a Control Panel account and add a new device to your account. Get both your API key (from your Profile page) and the Device Key for the one just created.

Edit the configuration file located in /usr/share/prey, and insert both of them (look for the api_key and device_key entries).

Run Prey as root so the cron job is set up:

 sudo /usr/share/prey/prey.sh

Control Panel says my device in "unverified"

This means that the Control panel has not received reports from your device yet. This could mean that Prey is not running or there is no internet connectivity. If a device is newly installed, it is unverified until Control Panel gets a report. Since Prey uses time intervals, it may take some time to receive a report. Check the interval of report collection under Device settings. If Prey is not running, check the installed version of Prey. If there is no connectivity, check your connection settings.

For more information see "preyproject.com/troubleshooting"

FAQ

I know where the thief is and what he/she looks like. What should I do now?

If you know the person, you can try contacting them and reclaim what is yours. Otherwise, probably the best idea is to contact the Police and give them as much information as you can. If they do recover your computer they'll 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.

What about running Prey on a device someone else uses?

If the device does not belong to you, do not use Prey. It is a violation of privacy and a violation of the Terms of Service.

What is activation by SMS? How do I run Prey on my Android phone?

The activation SMS is the SMS message you need to send - containing the activation phrase - to your mobile phone's number from another phone. Once your Android phone receives an SMS containing the phrase, Prey will wake up and start sending its location, as long as you've enabled the Geo module. By default the activation phrase is GO PREY (in full caps), but you can change by clicking on the Prey icon in your phone.

For more information/Questions, see "preyproject.com/faq"

Notice

  • All of these preferences become enabled only when the device is reported as stolen. If you are concerned with privacy, please read the Privacy Policy under "preyproject.com/privacy". Personal information may used for research or data analysis, however is not shared with third party members unless they are directly involved in the theft of your device, ex. Law Enforcement. Do not give out account information; it may compromise the safety of your device.
  • When running the Prey Configurator, you may want to enable a guest account, which may be found under Manage Prey Settings. Using a guest account may encourage the thief to use the computer more often; hence more reports can be created and better information can be collected.

This can only be done in the configurator, not in the online control panel.

If the device was already stolen or Prey was not correctly setup, this will not work. Prey can only help if installed correctly beforehand. Please call the police and file a report in the event of laptop theft.

Do not rely entirely upon software to ensure the safety of your device. This is meant as a means of recovery and nothing is fool proof. Prevent theft by using locks, watching your devices, and using safety precautions.

External Links

http://preyproject.com/