Trace stolen laptop by MAC address

December 15, 2009 at 20:46:27
Specs: Macintosh , 4
I am victim of laptop theft and police tell me that there
is little that they can do for me. I do have my
hardware configuration saved on a backup, including
MAC address, ethernet ID, and Bluetooth ID. Is it
possible to find the network where my stolen laptop
may be connected to through MAC address or
ethernet ID from another network?

See More: Trace stolen laptop by MAC address

December 15, 2009 at 21:49:22
There is virtually no chance your laptop can be traced unless the thief is dumb enough not to wipe the drive of any identifying/tracking program that you would have to have installed before the theft. Connection to the internet in most cases is done via a router of some description and only the mac address of the router would be visible to the WAN. You can forget about trying to track the laptop network card mac address.

Your only real protection with laptops is to enable bios boot and harddrive passwords. If you did have these features activated then your data is secure and the system will not be able to startup. As I understand it the only way to get past a bios boot password is to replace the bios EEPROM chip and your average thief isn't going to have the skills to do this.

If you didn't have those passwords activated then you will know better next time.

Goin' Fishin' (Some day)

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December 16, 2009 at 09:30:29
Hopefully you had a backup of your data and some sort of Encryption software installed on the laptop to protect the data from any unauthorized users.

Just out of curiosity, what were the circumstances of the theft?


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December 16, 2009 at 10:20:24
Thank you for your responses.

My laptop is login enabled at startup and wakeup on Mac OS
10.6. Sensitive info is stored in an encrypted disk image, but
unimportant data (photos, music, etc.) is not.

I did not enable Mac's EFI open firmware password, because
it can be circumvented with any Mac install CD. I have used
this in the past, I concluded that, it wasn't worth having: it
greatly complicated troubleshooting, was very difficult to
disable, and can be reset easily. It seems to me that data
encryption and enabled logins would suffice. Of course to the
average thief, that would be major pain for him, but if he has
half a brain he may figure out the solution. But I am no
expert, I welcome other's thoughts on this topic.

All my data was backed up, part of my regular routine, as a
clone of my HD. I restored the clone to another computer so
life continues as before. All my online passwords changed,
credit cards changed just to be safe. I lost the financial value
of the laptop, my hours upgrading the hardware, and software
tweaks (had Ubuntu running perfectly on it). Thank God that
was all I lost. The thief could have really cleaned me out if
he searched around.

I was stupid. I did not lock my door when I left my room. I
always do, and the one time I didn't..... I learned my lesson.
I will be kickin' myself all year for this one.

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December 16, 2009 at 11:27:27
Hi .mark

You don't need to kick or go hard on yourself. It happens to a lot of people. If it is of any condolence, USA Today yesterday published the following statistics on how many laptops were stolen in the past three years - as compiled by the FBI National Crime Information Center:

2007: 96,834
2008: 108,730
2009: 128,280

The above numbers refer only to those actually reported. to law authorities. I believe the figure is actually higher since not everybody has the guts like youself to report it

I hope this helps.


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December 16, 2009 at 12:52:30
I wonder how those numbers compare with the number of laptops in use.. No way to know, I guess.


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January 15, 2010 at 14:24:33

It's good that you have a backup. I've learned a bit about this subject in the past week, and I want to share. Maybe you can find some information helpful.

We had a computer (desktop) stolen in September 2009, and in the past few weeks, someone has started using it WITHOUT wiping the drive. They opened the email program which was able to access the user's email account. While this is not generally a good thing, we noticed it when the current user deleted all of the IMAP email and the user complained. Of course, I was surprised of two things: (1) that the current 'owner' of the stolen computer would use it without wiping it, and (2) that the original user hadn't changed the email password for his account (WOW!).

We had other software on the system that is trying to use servers on our network, too. So, for the past week, I've been watching the traffic against our firewall. I was happy to hear from SprintPCS (the owner of the IP addresses this computer is currently using) that they could give not only the billing address of their customer who's network this computer is using, but also the GPS coordinates of that network adapter (something they apparently have in their network devices). Unfortunately, all I could find out was that the user is in a town that's about an hour's drive from me. But they have a department that will provide this information to law enforcement (provided the have the correct paperwork). I'm hoping to get this computer back in the next few weeks.

And I find this ordeal very interesting.

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January 15, 2010 at 15:53:57

There was a case sometime ago where the owner had a program on the laptop that would "phone home" in case is was stolen. The laptop was actually recovered.

What I would do is hit the pawn shops & the streets, as a potential customer, looking for something cheap. You may see it for sale somewhere.

How do you know when a politician is lying? His mouth is moving.

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January 17, 2010 at 20:53:26
Applications that 'phone home' can be useful in the right
1. The stolen laptop is not password login enabled.
2. the HD is not wiped.

But then ID theft is very probable in those circumstances.
I'm starting to think that a chip that 'phones home' may
provide more advantages.

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