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I have been reading about solutions that track your computer in case of missing. Since I'm using Ubuntu 12.04, the best option would be prey for me, but I'm open to other suggestions.

The question is not about WHICH one, it's about WHETHER they work. I have a password to login into my user account. How would you make your laptop secure against theft, both the hardware and data, and make it recoverable?

The way I see it, I can either protect my information (encrypted home partition with login password) OR attempt to recover my laptop (geolocation, wifi, webcap pictures etc), but each option excludes the other.

Is there any other option that you know?

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3 Answers

It all depends who steals your laptop. If its running Linux and the thief can't use it, then it's not going to be switched on, and prey will be useless. The attacker is just going to install Windows and sell it on eBay.

What happens when you steal a hacker's computer is interesting. Due to the fact that he had an insecure setup and that the thief could use his machine, Zoz was able to track it down using a dynamic DNS update and ultimately recover it.

To be honest I would use full disk encryption, set a BIOS password, disable the Ubuntu guest account and when the machine is stolen consider it lost forever (and hopefully useless to the thief). It's very unlikely that any software will be helpful in recovering it.

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This is also good advice for business. Many US state breach notification laws do not require notification if the data was encrypted. –  Scott Pack Sep 2 '12 at 21:13
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Agreed - this way it is purely a hardware cost to replace. Annoying, but as long as you have backups, it isn't an information problem. –  Rory Alsop Sep 2 '12 at 21:46
    
I'm using already full disk encryption which I plan to stop (because of this bug), BIOS password and just deactivated the guest account. The video was hilarious, thank you for sharing it. –  Francisco Presencia Sep 2 '12 at 23:30
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@FrankPresenciaFandos Try switching to TrueCrypt's system encryption. It allows you to completely encrypt the disk, and have it decrypted at boot via the TC bootloader. This ensures that your entire disk is safe, including the OS and any swap file you might have. –  Polynomial Sep 3 '12 at 6:05
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I had only skimmed through the most popular tracking software there. After reading thoroughly the extensive FAQ of prey, I found this question to answer my original:

Will Prey still phone home if there’s no user logged in?

The answer is yes, since Prey runs in the background as the root (system) user.

Now, if there’s no active session then Prey won’t be able to obtain some information — e.g. a screenshot — so we recommend creating a dummy account with no admin privileges and no password, just to lure the thief in. On Windows you can do this through the Control Panel, or even through the Prey Configurator (in Settings).

EDIT. It doesn't specify the OS in which it loads before logging in, so I will send them an email asking it.

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You need a dummy OS to load automatically on boot and honeypot account to auto-login. You want the thief to plug the computer into a network and use it.

Windows Honeypot user account for tracking laptop

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