Hey @WGroleau, thanks for stoping by and sharing your thoughts.
It is possible for an admin to modify the template that is copied into the Guest account for every login. So you could activate Prey that way.
It seems you're a little bit confused about this so let me clarify the point (although I believe I already explained it thoroughly in my first post):
- By the time you successfully make it to the welcome screen (the log in screen that shows up once the system has fully booted), not the boot screen, Prey should be up and running.
However, if the system partition is encrypted, the 'log in' screen you see is a "fake" welcome screen: indeed, it's a BOOT MENU screen, prettified to resemble the welcome screen. If you try to log into the Guest account from here, the computer will boot into a minimal macOS instance that enables basic I/O stuff and let you run Safari only. This is the "Guest" account that really matters, not the one you can access once the full blown system is up and running.
I don't know if this image can be customized, at least with a established protocol -- I would tend to believe you can't.
Maybe one could put together a hack - in the same vein of creating a customized GNU+Linux, *BSD or Windows custom bootable image) - but I certainly believe this is not something that Apple would like you to do.
Is it possible (I don't know) for an admin to launch prey via launchdaemons, so it runs even while the thief is trying to figure out how to log in?
This is how Prey actually works.
BTW, I resent the insult.
Believe me when I say none was given -- therefore none should be taken.
Since somebody else already explained it well: Linus Torvalds on his insults: respect should be earned. Priceless (not-so) common-sense stuff.
I am fully aware that the data on my laptop is NOT worth more than the laptop itself
I'm not rich by any means and even if I were, I would hate to waste my money. Premium laptops aren't precisely cheap and Apple's ones aren't the exception. However, when compared with the risk of an stranger having access to my stuff, that's another whole story. I believe that this is the case for most people since, ultimately, the hardware, as expensive as it can be, is the easiest thing to replace.
If it were, it would also be too valuable to risk losing or forgetting the disk password.
Okay, some considerations here:
When you encrypt your disk using FileVault2, the decryption password is the same password you use to log into your account. You can change lately your account password for added security, but not your volume decryption password. So, ideally, you would have set three passwords for your computer: a) EFI password, b) FileVault2 password, c) account password. On top of it you might want to add a fourth one for your secrets manager (like KeePass or 1Password).
Reality is that most of the times, people share the same password for both account access and file system encryption -- and truth is that should be safe.
So, the only way to forget your decryption password is if you forget your account password. And even if for whatever reason you do, FileVault2 provides an unlock code that let you reset the encryption password. Furthermore, if you choose so (which to me is an uncomfortable insecurity vector) you could, alternatively, unlock your account (not decrypt your disk, for that is the code provided at encryption time by FileVault2) from your iCloud account, provided of course you're connected to the internet.
Besides, it IS valuable enough that I have two backup disks and, for a few things, a cloud backup..
Sure, that's the way to go.
But the problem with someone else messing with your data is of an entirely different scope, like someone with access to your information could potentially infer what kind of person you are, how are you connected to other people, what do you do for living, where to find you (or your family/friends), etc.
To somehow alleviate this issue, macOS implements a secrets management feature (the "Keychain") that should keep stuff like passwords, websites credentials, CC information or social security ID safe. But, again, someone with access to your unencrypted computer - and patience - could access to all the cold-stored information and eventually break into the juicy stuff: http://www.securityweek.com/macos-high-sierra-update-patches-keychain-access-flaw. As a rule of dumb, once there's physical access consider it compromised.
Then again there is way too much information that can be extracted from the unencrypted files stored on the system (pictures, music, videos, your navigation history, documents, emails, messengers), not to mention from the embedded metadata.
Your computer basically shouts to the world who you really are. From the moment someone access your system, you're an open book.
In the end it is up to each one to setup priorities and what and how much can afford to lose, the scales weigh differently for each one of us.
Another point: Unless the person is able to log in and enter a WiFi password, or select a free WiFi AP, or just happens to get within range of one I have already accessed, my laptop or iPad will never connect to the internet, and thus Prey will not help.
Actually, as I said above, your Mac will likely remember the WiFi networks you connect to storing that information in the Non-Volatile RAM (or NVRAM). Give it a try. Since you don't seem to have FileVault2 enabled, just reboot into the Recovery mode and launch Safari
Also, whether you boot into the 'Guest account' (remember, it's not really an account but a whole OS image crippled to let you run only Safari) or you log into the Guest account (once you reached the welcome screen), you can connect to WiFi APs as usual provided you didn't enable the access enforcement rights:
(I'm not sure if this applies to the Guest boot image though...)
Apple says that no one will ever be able to use my stolen iPad unless they know my Apple ID and password. And since it can't get online for the reasons above, neither Prey nor Apple's "Find my" is of any value. Little doubt the thing went into a dumpster within 24 hours after it was stolen.
I don't own an iPad, can't speak about it.
About dumping it, do you mean a pawn shop or something? As I say I don't own any iPad so I have zero experience with it but I think it could be easily reset (losing all of your information, sure) or even jailbreaked without knowing the account password.
For this reason, any time I am anywhere, I connect to any free WiFi I can find, even if I don't trust it to actually use it. But since I travel a lot, that's not likely to help much.
This is precisely the single least thing you should do.
Whenever it's possible, tether with your phone. If you don't have remaining bandwidth in your data plan, or you don't have enough signal, or because of whatever reason you have to connect to an alien network, please PLEASE use a VPN. There are a lot of good ones, however the ones I can recommend based on my own experience are FreedomeVPN (from F-Secure), NordVPN and Private Internet Access (PIA).