Prey Tracks Your Stolen Laptop So You Can Get it Back

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 25, 2010

It's great that laptops are portable enough to take anywhere with us, but that also increases the chance that they will get lost or stolen. Prey, a small open source application that runs on Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows, gives you a fighting chance of getting your computer back if it ever goes missing.

Once activated, Prey emails regular reports on the status of your computer, including which programs are running and what networks are active. The app even snags a screenshot of the desktop and a surreptitious photo of the thief if your computer has an integrated webcam.

When Prey is running, it constantly looks for active Internet connections and open wifi access points so it can send out reports, and is smart enough to check twice in case the network is blocking ping requests. It also acts as a gateway for you to communicate with the person who stole your computer by allowing you to send onscreen messages and trigger alarms.

The most recent version of the app, Prey 0.3.7, adds a slick new geo-location features. It sniffs out existing wifi hotspots and attempts to pinpoint the computer's location using Google's Location API. Your laptop doesn't need actually connect to the hotspot, it just needs to detect they're there for the geo-location feature to work.

Of course, Prey makes no guarantee that you'll get your lost or stolen laptop back, but at least the app gives you a slight advantage. Prey is licensed under the GPLv3 license and available for free download from the project's Web site.