Laptops get lost and stolen. No matter how you slice it, that's a scenario no one wants to deal with. When the laptop contains sensitive company information, the issue goes from bad to exponentially worse.
What can you do?
If your laptop runs Linux, Windows, or macOS there's a piece of open source software called Prey that offers the following features:
- Auto Wi-Fi connect
- GPS and/or Wi-Fi geolocation
- Remote data wipe (paid version only)
- Retrieve files (paid version only)
- Lock the device
- Send messages to the device
- Sound an alarm
- Control zones
You must sign up for a Prey account. There is a free account, which allows you to add up to three devices and a maximum of 20 reports. There are paid versions as well. My suggestion is to test out the free version—if it meets your needs, purchase one of the paid versions which will add extra features to your account. Find out more on pricing and features here.
I'll be demonstrating the installation of Prey on Ubuntu 17.10. Prey is available for most Linux distributions, as well as macOS and Windows.
To install Prey, download the .deb file for your architecture (either 32- or 64-bit). Open up a terminal window and once the file has downloaded, change into the Downloads directory with the command cd ~/Downloads. Install the software with the command:
sudo dpkg -i prey*.deb
The installation will error out. To fix the errors, issue the command:
sudo apt install -f
Once the installation completes, a window will appear (Figure A). If you don't already have an account, click New user and then click Forward.
In the next window, enter the necessary information: Name, Email, and Password. Once you've entered that, click Apply and a new popup will appear to inform you your computer is now protected by Prey.
If you go to the Prey login site, and log in with the same credentials you used when installing Prey (email and password) and you will see your newly added hardware listed (Figure B). If you click on that device, a map will appear to show you its location.
You can then set the device as Missing or take other action on the device like sound an alarm, send a message, and more. Once you set a device as missing, Prey will then record a log that includes a screenshot of what's happening on the device, the IP of the device, and a map of it's current location, which can be viewed from within the Prey Dashboard in the Activity Logs for the device. The report will also be emailed to the address associated with your Prey account. Hopefully that information will be enough to help you locate and reclaim your laptop.
If you do recover your device, make sure to set the device as recovered in your Prey dashboard.
Simple device location
You'd be hard-pressed to find an easier solution for keeping tabs on your laptops. Whether you use Linux, Windows, or macOS you owe it to yourself to give Prey a try and see if it doesn't help you keep track of your hardware.
- How to re-add yourself to the sudo security group (TechRepublic)
- Sweeping Wi-Fi security flaw has left nearly every connected device at risk (TechRepublic)
- How to install and use Let's Encrypt on a Ubuntu Server for SSL security (TechRepublic)
- How to harden Ubuntu Server 16.04 security in five steps (TechRepublic)
- NSA leak exposes Red Disk, the Army's failed intelligence system (ZDNet)
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.