Mobile devices like laptops, tablets, and smartphones are very handy when you are on the go. But because they leave the safety of your home or business, they are also more likely to be lost or stolen. You’ve probably heard of LoJack for cars. It’s a device that is hidden in the car that can be activated when a car is stolen. It’s basically a tracking device that allows the police to locate your stolen vehicle.
This same type of service is available for your mobile devices as well. But instead of a physical device, it’s software that is installed. Most of these services are not free, but there is one service that has a free option that is great for the average home user. The service I am talking about is called Prey.
Here’s how it works. First you need to create a free account on their website, preyproject.com. Once you’ve done that, they will send you a confirmation email which contains a link you must click on to confirm the account. Now all that is left is to install Prey on your mobile devices. With the free account, you can install it on up to 3 mobile devices which is plenty for most people.
Make sure you keep a file or some sort of record (not on your mobile device) that contains your Prey login and password information so if your mobile device is lost or stolen, you will know where to go and how to login.
Hopefully your mobile device is not lost or stolen, but if it is and you have Prey on that device, all you would need to do is to login to PreyProject.com and then report your mobile device as missing. Once you report the device as missing, Prey goes into action. On their website you can get reports from your missing mobile device with all sorts of helpful information.
You can view a picture taken from the webcam which can help you locate your phone and/or identify the thief.
You can view a screenshot of what’s on the screen.
If your laptop was stolen, you can see what they are doing on the laptop screen. This can be helpful in identifying the thief.
It will show you a map of where your mobile device is located.
Note that on devices with GPS this works great, but on devices like laptops that only have wireless, this doesn’t work as well. But even on a laptop, it does give you a general location. So if your device is in another city, at least you will know. For example, when I tried it with my laptop, it showed that my laptop was 8 miles away from where it really was. However, if I were located in a more densely populated area, it would be MUCH more accurate.
It will give you the IP address of your mobile device.
The IP address is the device’s numerical address on the Internet. If you know the IP address of the device, you can find out which internet service provider owns that address. Then you can call them, or have the police call them, and find out the location of that IP address.
If the device is lost, you can have Prey cause the device to make a loud alarm sound for 30 seconds so you can find the device if it’s nearby.
You can have Prey show a message on the screen.
If the laptop is lost, the message can say your name and number and, if you wish, a reward for returning the device. If the device has been stolen, you can send the thief a message.
You can tell Prey to lock down the laptop.
Prey will change the password and lock it down so that nobody can use the laptop.
Hide important information
You can tell Prey to secure important files on your laptop like email, stored passwords, etc. so that the thief can’t access them.
The paid version of Prey can do even more.
Now that you know how to use Prey and all of the great features it has, there are some caveats to Prey that you should be aware of.
For Prey to work, the device must be turned on. Prey won’t help if you lost your device if the device was turned off. In that case, someone would have to find it and turn it on. If you lost your mobile phone, it was probably turned on when you lost it. But you’ll need to act quickly before the battery dies.
In the case of laptops, the laptop must be logged into Windows for Prey to work.
If your laptop requires a password to login, the Thief won’t be able to login and thus Prey won’t work. If you don’t have a password on your laptop, then the Thief can login and Prey will work. But the fallback from that is that the Thief will have access to all of your information. We recommend you have a password to login to your laptop. Then you can enable the Guest account in Windows so that a Thief could login to the laptop using the Guest account, but they wouldn’t be able to access your data.
Prey doesn’t really protect against professional thieves.
A professional thief will know not to login or even turn on a laptop so Prey would never have a chance to do anything. A professional Thief will do a reset on a phone or tablet to erase all apps and information. If you are thinking that a more expensive anti-theft service will work in this case, think again. Most laptop anti-theft software still has the problem that it is software. All the thief has to do is reinstall Windows and that blows most anti-theft software away rendering it ineffective. Keep reading for alternatives that will better protect you against professional thiefs.
iPhone users can use MobileMe
iPhone users can use MobileMe to show the location of their iPhone, but it doesn’t provide as many features as Prey.