Prey is a free application, available for Windows, Mac, and Linux from Preyproject.com. The application runs as a background process on your machine. At specified intervals, it connects to the internet and tries to determine whether or not the laptop has been stolen.
Prey works in one or two ways. The end user can configure Prey to use the vendor’s online control panel. When the machine is stolen, all you do is login to the Prey Web site and indicate that the loss. When the Prey software on your pc checks in with the online control panel, it will receive a message that the machine has been stolen.
You can also configure in work in “standalone” mode. Here, instead of using the vendor’s page, you create a web page and provide the URL information to Prey. The webpage does not have to have any specific content; it simply has to be live. At set intervals, Prey will access the page. If your PC is stolen, you need to delete the webpage informing Prey of the loss. The next time Prey checks in, the software will recognize that your laptop is missing.
Once Prey recognizes that you computer has been stolen, the software generates reports using containing the information below:
- Status of the computer,
- List of running programs and active connections,
- Network and Wi-Fi information,
- Screenshot of the running desktop,
- Picture of the physical surroundings (if the PC has a Webcam).
The reports are either accessible through the vendor site or are e-mailed to the end user (“standalone” mode).
Once you have the report in hand, unfortunately your only course of action is to turn the information over to the police leaving it completely up to law enforcement to follow up, find the thief, and return your equipment to you. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that your local police department will look for the device.
Let’s take a look at the Minnesota theft laws. Under Minnesota statute 609.52, the thief, when and if he/she is caught is “subject to imprisonment for not more than one year or to payment of a fine of not more than $3,000, or both, if the value of the property or services stolen is more than $500 but not more than $1,000…” or “in all other cases where the value of the property or services stolen is $500 or less, to imprisonment for not more than 90 days or to payment of a fine of not more than $1,000, or both.”
Please keep in mind that reclaiming your stolen PC yourself is illegal! You might be charged with any number of crimes ranging from trespassing to assault.