Krista Swanson: Tech Mummy


Prey security software

A Man Stalks His Prey on Twitter

Last night I was pulled in by an action adventure story – but it wasn’t unfolding on a movie screen, by book, or by radio – it was happening before my very eyes on Twitter.

For Sean Power (@seanpower) , a local author and consultant, what started as an evening shopping for an IPad2 to replace his laptop that was stolen on a recent trip to New York City, ended as an evening where the laptop would be returned to him. This happy ending wasn’t a result of the NYPD, but instead because he had installed open source software by PreyProject  called ‘Prey.’ describes Prey as software that “… lets you keep track of your phone or laptop at all times, and will help you find it if it ever gets lost or stolen. It's lightweight, open source software, and free for anyone to use. And it just works.“

Um, ya. It certainly DOES work. In a turn of events that felt more like an episode of 24, Sean’s laptop was turned on by a suspected thief, and as soon as it was connected to the internet via WiFi, Prey quickly began sending screen shots and pictures back to the Prey service. Prey was also able to use the WiFi connection on Sean’s laptop to detect which WiFi access points were close to his PC. The service then sent a request to a location service which was able to pinpoint the actual physical location of Sean’s laptop!  Sean was alerted, and then Sean started tweeting.

Over the course of a few short hours last night we learned the name of the alleged laptop theft suspect,  his alleged location, photo, email address, etc. all because of the information being captured by Prey (You can see a summary of Sean’s tweets for the night here)  I’m telling you, I hit refresh more on my twitter feed last night than I have in a while.

Prey is free for home use, and is currently available for Windows, Mac, Ubuntu and Linux computers, as well as Android phones. It’s a small install that runs a tiny agent in your computer or phone. It sits and waits for a remote signal to tell it to wake up, then begins sending messages through the Internet or via text messages.

@seanpower, I'm happy you got your laptop back. And whether this was real (I think it was), or a guerilla marketing campaign, you better believe I installed Prey first thing this morning.