Track A Stolen Device (Part 1) - Set up a device, Lock your phone

10/16/2012 3:19:25 PM

It’s easy to keep tabs on your lost devices, and the person who has got their hands on it…

You don’t have to be overly careless to lose your tablet or smartphone – it can happen to the best of us but that doesn’t mean you should just accept the fact that your beloved device is gone forever. With the open source package Prey, you can pull a fast one on the thief. You can keep an eye on the perp’s whereabouts and see how he or she is using your device  information that will come in handy when you’re reporting the theft to the authorities.

It’s easy to keep tabs on your lost devices, and the person who has got their hands on it…

Prey works on several operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and Android devices, and the developers are working on an iPhone version. Best of all, it’s free for tracking up to three devices.

You control Prey via a web console, which covers all your devices, after which Prey will keep an eye out for it. As soon as it sees that the device is online, Prey will send you lots of information about the device, and more importantly, its location.

Set up a device

Prey can only track devices if you install it before they go missing. This isn’t a retroactive tool – you have to be organized. However, installing Prey is a walk in the park as long as you have administrative privileges under the operating system you’re installing it on.

It’s a good idea to ensure you lock your Prey administrator account with a strong password, which will prevent the program being removed from the system if a thief realizes what it is.

Description: Prey- An awesome application to track your stolen Laptop and android phone

Prey- An awesome application to track your stolen Laptop and android phone

Prey runs in the background without the thief’s knowledge, so lure them with a user account with no admin privileges and no password. As soon as they log in, they’re all yours!

Once it’s installed, Prey asks you to set up a reporting method. This controls how the software communicates with the devices and reports back to you. The best method is to use Prey’s web-based control panel, which can be used from any machine.

Once that’s taken care of, you need to set up a user account. The Prey set-up process asks for your name, email address and a password. It also picks up the name of the device and its type from the OS, which you can edit either in this screen, or later from Prey’s control panel. For subsequent installations on other devices, select he option to link the device with your existing account. You’re now ready to set up Prey’s behavior. Launch the Prey configuration tool, and select ‘Manage Prey Settings’. This lets you enable a password-free guest user account under Windows to lure whoever is using your stolen device. You should also activate the Wi-Fi auto connection option, which discreetly connects to the nearest open Wi-Fi hotspot to send you reports.

After you’ve set up your device, you can configure its behavior via Prey’s web-based control panel.

Lap your trap

First, head to the Configuration section, from where you can alter the name of the device, as well as its operating system. The default values vary from machine to machine, and are the ones detected by Prey. There’s also a Hardware section, which gives you detailed information about the hardware on a device, including its serial number and that of its motherboard. If you have a feeling the thief has scavenged your machine for its hardware, you can perform a manual hardware scan via the configuration settings. You can also ask Prey to notify you with an email when it detects any changes to the hardware of the device.

The various options under the Main configuration section are separated into two groups. ‘Actions to perform’ lists the actions Prey will take on your device. Although these actions will be performed irrespective of whether the device is marked as missing or not, it’s best to keep them turned off until the device is actually lost. There’s a couple of options to dissuade the thief. The first is the alarm option, which sounds a loud noise from your missing device to help you find it if it’s nearby. Then there’s the Alert Message option, which changes the wallpaper of the device and display a warning that tells the thief that the device is being tracked by Prey.

Lock your phone

If these don’t work to discourage the thief, you can use the Lock option to prevent the device from being used until a password is entered. The best thing about this option is that you can activate it, set a password and lock the device with the password remotely after it has been stolen. Alternatively, instead of locking the computer, you can let Prey discreetly gather information about the miscreant. As soon as the device is brought online, Prey can use nearby Wi-Fi access points to interpolate the location on your device and mark it on Google Maps. Along with this, it gathers other network-related information, such as the public and private IP address of the network the device is connected to. You can also ask Prey to run a traceroute (to from the missing machine through the thief’s route.

Description: Lock Or Wipe Your Stolen iOS 5 Devices

Lock Or Wipe Your Stolen iOS 5 Devices

If you’re interested, you can also get Prey to gather lots of information about the desktop session – a list of the running applications, which files have been modified in a particular directory, along with a screenshot. Over time, you can build quite a repository of the sites that the swindler frequents, the apps they like to run regularly, and the files they have created on your machine. Sooner or later, you will also get a screenshot of them logging into their webmail account or some other website. While you won’t get their password, you’ll be able to clearly see their username, which you can use to contact them.

If your device has a built-in webcam (most laptops and tablets do these days), Prey will also secretly take snapshots of whatever the webcam sees. It won’t take long before you catch the crook in front of your stolen device. On some machines, though, there’s a small LED that lights up whenever the camera is on. If the crook spots this, they might cover the webcam to prevent them being seen.

You can set the interval after which Prey wakes up and collects the information you’ve asked for. In the free version, this can be between 10 minutes and 40 minutes. The Pro version enables you to create a persistent connection with the device (see the ‘Pro accounts’ boxout above).

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