I’ve come across a suntimes.com review of a device tracking “spyware” called “Prey.” Based on open-sourced software (and not without its controversy), it’s a root-level software that will keep track of devices via the internet, assuming a connection is available. While I can see the benefits of such software, it’s incompatible with disk encryption programs like AlertBoot for one simple reason: the thief cannot access your computer.
Good Encryption Prevents Access to Computer
The simple logic behind the incompatibility between encryption and tracking software lies in the fact that encryption software prevents a laptop thief from accessing the device. When the thief boots up the computer, he or she will be prompted for a password.
At this point, the computer is not turned “on” in the normal sense. Sure, power is being supplied to the computer, but under disk encryption software like AlertBoot, something called pre-boot authorization (PBA) — which will take the user’s password and check to make sure it’s the right one — is the only thing running. The computer’s operating system lies dormant at this stage, and will only start up when the correct encryption password is provided.
Since the OS hasn’t started yet, it means most if not all functions of the computer are dormant as well. This includes internet services, the same that Prey uses to figure out a device’s location.
If you decide that you might want to use device tracking software, you have a choice to make: do you want to recover your device or do you want to protect your data? Assuming sensitive data is not stored on the computer, ever, you might want to give tracking software a second look. If you do store sensitive data on a computer, then encryption should take precedence.
After all, there is no guarantee that a computer will be recovered when device tracking software is used. Plus, only encryption provides protection from certain laws and regulations (assuming safe harbor is offered). And, even if you’re able to recover your device, there’s not guarantee that the thief has already accessed your data already.
This does not mean that Prey is “bad” software (although, I can’t claim it’s good software either: I’ve never used it). It just means that you’ve got to figure out what your priorities are, and act accordingly.
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