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Prey Theft Recovery Software Review

by on Mar.27, 2011, under Uncategorized

Prey is a Windows, Mac, Ubuntu Linux (via Wine), or Android software installation that assists in the event of a portable device becoming lost or stolen. When reported missing via the PreyProject website, the software on the device activates and reports back to the owner several parameters that could be helpful in recovering the device. [Updated 03/29/11]

Installation was very simple on my Windows 7 notebook, requiring me to provide an email address and password to create my account. After receiving a confirmation email, I went to my account page online and set which parameters I wanted it to report back.

I also indicated how often I wanted it to report back after being missing.

With that done, I indicated that the notebook was missing and waited 20 minutes (as configured) for the first report to come in. After 23 minutes, nothing had happened. I think the reason why was that during that time, the notebook had gone to sleep. I woke it up and waited again, and this time I got an email with a link back to my account page.

Provided there was a Google Map indicating the location, a screenshot of the desktop, a webcam photo, how long the computer had been on, the username of the person logged in (me), The WAN and LAN IP addresses and the IP of the gateway. Also provided was various Wifi data (anonymized for this post).

{"mac_address": "00-13-xx-xx-xx-bf", "ssid": "wifiname1", "signal_strength": "-51", "channel": "2417000", "signal_to_noise": "99"},
{"mac_address": "00-23-xx-xx-xx-05", "ssid": "wifiname2", "signal_strength": "-86", "channel": "2412000", "signal_to_noise": "23"},
{"mac_address": "00-0c-xx-xx-xx-a5", "ssid": "wifiname3", "signal_strength": "-87", "channel": "2437000", "signal_to_noise": "21"},
{"mac_address": "00-12-xx-xx-xx-19", "ssid": "wifiname4", "signal_strength": "-86", "channel": "2457000", "signal_to_noise": "23"}

The map feature identified the location of the notebook approximately 2.5 miles away from its true location. Considering that the notebook has no GPS for it to use, I assume its trying to use wifi data to determine location. As I’m semi-rural, I’m not surprised it had no idea where the four wifi signals in range were located. I’m actually surprised it got as close as it did. Still, the only way to find the computer from this data would be to start at the map location and randomly wardrive the area looking for those SSIDs. Not a promising endeavor. A second report 20 minutes later pegged the location 9.7 miles away.

As another test, I want to try again with the laptop more in the center of the city and will update this post with those results.

After the second report came in I went back to the settings and turned on the Alert feature which will cause a message to appear on the missing device. It took 20 minutes for it to appear.

[Update 3/29/11]  With the notebook computer at my workplace in the center part of the city, I ran the test again.  The results were impressive.  It pinpointed the location and the google streetview of the lat/long it had acquired even showed the front door of the building I was in.  It would be helpful if there were some kind of confidence rating that it could apply to its generated results.

[Update 8/2/11] PreyProject website:

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