The High Tech Society

A Review of the Cicada Anti-Theft Device

Gadgets & Gizmos

A Review of the Cicada Anti-Theft Device

I was asked to review the Cicada Anti-Theft device which is a small grey USB device. It retails for about $99 from the Cicada site which is an okay price for anti-theft software. The USB essentially plugs into a laptop through any of the USB ports and can be set to a computer to set off dual alarms if the computer is moved, unplugged, or tampered with. One of the most noticeable things about Cicada is that rather than helping you to track the laptop after theft, it is designed to prevent it from being stolen. My review of Cicada is as follows.

cicada review

What’s in the Box?

When you order Cicada you essentially get a grey USB stick with the words Cicada emblazoned on the front, which is what they also sent us to use for this Cicada review. You also get a 1 year monitoring subscription with your device which, for the price, I thought should have been a little longer. Cicada promises scalable computer security based on network, motion, plugging and unplugging devices and LAN networks, and a couple of different modes including travel, home, and don’t touch.

cidada review

Installing Software

You will also have to download the Cicada driver from the Cicada store or the device will sound off until you do download it. This was more than a bit of an annoyance as typically USB sticks can quickly load software onto a computer, while it might take more bandwidth to download. The client is a zip file and about 2.8 mb in size, so it only takes a few seconds if you have good internet.

If you have an antivirus link scanner then you will receive a message that ‘Cicada is not commonly downloaded and could be dangerous’. You can ignore this and proceed to open your software. Once downloaded, the client opens a ‘setup’ so that you can install Cicada on your computer. The installed software takes up about 4.8 mb which is also negligible in size. For a new computer, expect a two minute install, for an older one, think 2-10 minutes.

cicada review

How it Works

Once your Cicada software has been installed, you can choose to set it up based on your personal network, your location, and whether or not you want anyone to touch the computer at all. You have to plug the Cicada device into a spare USB slot and turn your computer on. You can go through the options and select protection that works for you.

Some of the options include setting off the alarm when the computer is moved, setting off an alarm when something is unplugged, or even setting off the alarm if anyone touches the device at all. When fully charged, Cicada will set off about 40 minutes of beeping from the computer and the device which makes for a nice dual alarm. Some of the things Cicada security can detect include:

  • Computer movement
  • Removal of the Cicada USB
  • Insertion or removal of devices including USB, CD/DVD, Firewire, etc. (have not tested it with Bluetooth sync).
  • Power or network disconnection
  • Infrared connection

Each of these instances is useful for detecting anyone attempting to steal the computer or computer data, which can be especially important in a corporate environment, or for anyone who keeps sensitive data on their computer. Once set off, Cicada will lock the computer screen, disable the mouse pointer, restrict computer use, dismount encrypt volumes, and issue an alert to the owner of the device via email, SMS, or SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) meaning that it syncs the alert to another computer.

cicada review

Disarming Cicada

Whether you’ve decided to test Cicada on your own or you’ve had an actual theft attempt, it’s not likely that you want to let Cicada keep screaming. Importantly you cannot disarm Cicada from the Safe mode, so remember to log into the computer normally and make sure that the Cicada USB is firmly in the computer. From there you can open the Cicada interface, select disarm, and enter the code that you provided during setup.

Pros of Cicada

Cicada effectively limits keyboard usage to help prevent anyone from using workarounds to disable the alarm and can effectively cause enough noise to attract attention. The dual alarms also make it harder to turn off, although the Cicada can be easily dumped by anyone who knows how to unplug a USB (which is everyone). You can also set Cicada to automatically arm at any time when the laptop is idle, meaning that if you frequently have to get up and leave your laptop, it will be safe.

Cons of Cicada

  • Cicada only works on Windows
  • You need at least one working USB port
  • Cicada can be muted by muting the computer, inserting headphones into the jack, and by throwing the Cicada USB in the trash.
  • Only Available in Silver
  • Only works if the computer is on.
  • Relatively ineffective against computer savvy thieves.

Review of Cicada

All in all, Cicada 2.1 seems to be much better than its previous incarnation which actually cost more money. While there are workarounds for the tech, they require that the thief realize Cicada is present. Unfortunately, Cicada isn’t very humble and with its blazoned logo, anyone who knows what Cicada security is can take steps to mute the computer and plug in headphone jacks before stealing the device. If Cicada were a bit smaller and did not come with the logo, it would be literally impossible to detect before theft which would definitely be a huge pro.

For anyone looking for ultimate laptop protection, Cicada falls short in a few areas. Any thief who is truly determined to steal a laptop can simply grab it and run, ditch the Cicada, and turn the laptop off to mute it. Furthermore, Cicada does not work if the laptop is not on, which can be trouble considering that many thefts are made while laptops are off. Combining Cicada with a remote tracking device or a program that can be used to lock the hard drive or wipe data remotely could turn this anti-theft device into the perfect anti-theft system for your laptop. For now, you’ll have to invest in extra software for those capabilities.

So is Cicada worth it? If you frequently work in public areas, don’t trust your co-workers, or leave your laptop in your office or dorm room unattended, Cicada might be for you. Otherwise, you might be better off looking into tracking software, or anti-theft software that is slightly more difficult to discover and disable.