Thursday, November 18, 2010 - Things you can do to aid recovering one's stolen laptop part 2

Continuing from my last post, i wanted to speak on an open source project called prey.
From the website itself,, it states "Prey lets you keep track of your phone or laptop at all times, and will help you find it if it ever gets lost or stolen. It's lightweight, open source software, and free for anyone to use. And it just works."

It is available for Linux, Windows, Mac OS and the Android platform as well.

These are the steps involved in getting it set-up for Windows:
  1. Download and install the software
  2. In configuration, choose to set up reporting method
  3. Choose the recommended option "Prey + control panel"
  4. Create a new user and follow remaining steps
  5. Log into newly created account on
  6. Click on your device
  7. Make necessary changes here then goto "Modules" to configure those (very important)
  8. The Modules section is where you tell prey what information to collect if your PC is stolen. Make necessary changes here
  9. Click on "Save changes"
  10. To test your system out, switch back to "Configuration" view and turn on the "Missing?" option. This tells prey to start doing its thing and start reporting the information you requested.

For Ubuntu linux users:
  1. Download the .deb installer from the main website
  2. install using: # dpkg -i prey_0.4.4-ubuntu2_all.deb
  3. If the install complains about dependencies like mines install them. For example, i installed my dependencies like this: # apt-get scrot streamer mpg123. Scrot is a screeshot capture program, streammer is a video and audio capture utility and mpg123 is a command line mp3 player.
  4. Verify your crontab entry: # crontab -l
  5. Verifythat the cron service is running: # /etc/init.d/cron status. If cron is not running it may not be configured to run on system bootup unless you purposely disabled it. You can add it to the startup scripts like so: # update-rc.d cron defaults. Then verify again that its running: # /etc/init.d/cron status
  6. If the GUI configurator tool does not launch, you will have to manually configure the options. Edit the /usr/share/prey/config file (make a backup of original before). You would want to add the api_key and the device_key values that you get when you're in your prey account. I also set randomize_check_host='y' and commented all the ssh, smtp, sftp and scp options near the bottom as well.

The way the prey system works is that when your stolen laptop is connected to the internet, the prey client that was previously installed will be silently and stealthily be periodically phoning home to the mothership looking for instructions (Even when you are not connected to the internet it periodically attempts this as well). The intervals in which prey does this "phoning home" can be configured on your machine "Goto start menu -> All programs ->" prey -> Configuration". When it phones home it checks for instructions, specifically if that "Missing?" option that we set in step 10 is set to on. If its set to off then it does nothing and goes back to sleep until its next periodic cycle. If when it phones home and see that the missing option is set to "on", then it starts collection the information that you configured in the modules (step 8) and send them to the prey servers where you and only you can review them when you log into your account. This information can include its location, hardware and network status and optionally trigger specific actions on it such as locking the computer (a pre-assigned password would be required to unlock it) or deleting browser cookies and cached stored passwords.

Resources / Good Reading:

No comments:

Post a Comment