Prey is a cross-platform (Android, Linux, iOS, Mac OS X, and Windows desktop) anti-theft tracking software that, when installed and activated on a supported device, makes it possible for the owner to remotely locate, lock, wipe and recover it, if it’s stolen or missing.
If Prey is news to you, read the introduction at How to integrate Prey into the security posture of your Linux PC, then create a free account at preyproject.com.
This rest of this tutorial will show how to install and manage it on Linux Mint 17.1.
There’s no binary package for Prey in the repository, so you’ll have to download a .deb package from the project’s download page here. Since you’ll be installing it on a Ubuntu-based distribution, download the one for Ubuntu. Save it to the Downloads folder.
Now, launch a shell terminal and change to the Downloads folder by typing cd Downloads. Before installing it, you’ll have to install some dependencies. How to install those and then install Prey is shown in this code block. Be sure to install the exact Prey package you downloaded:
# Install the dependencies sudo apt-get install -y streamer scrot mpg123 # Install Prey sudo apt-get install -y prey_1.3.6_amd64.deb
If installation completed successfully, a window similar to the one shown in Figure 1 should open. If you’ve not created an account yet, do so by clicking on the appropriate option. Otherwise select the option shown, then click Forward.
You will be prompted to log in. After a successful login, you should get the message shown in Figure 2.
This screenshot shows the Prey Web UI of my account before any device was registered.
And this one shows the same interface after a device was registered and is being tracked.
The registered device just happens to be a desktop installation of Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon. Yes, desktop, not notebook. Desktop’s can be stolen too.
Geolocation works with WiFi access, but the desktop did not have one, so I did not test that feature.
In the event of a loss or theft, you log into your account and take any number of actions, including sending a message that will be seen by the person using the computer.
And that’s the benefit of installing an anti-theft application like Prey. But consider this: If your computer is stolen and you can send a message through Prey that can be seen by the thief, then you failed to do something very important – encrypt the disk. That’s far more important than an anti-theft application.
But nothing stops you from encrypting your disk, then installing Prey, because, like I wrote in How to integrate Prey into the security posture of your Linux PC:
…in the unlikely event the disk is decrypted without the configured passphrase, Prey will be able to call home and hopefully, help you recover the unit. If you go this route, remember to also have a backup system in place. You can’t lose your data by backing it up.