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Police will soon be able find stolen gear by looking up MAC addresses

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September 9, 2015

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It's recently been revealed that a policeman in the state of Iowa wants to sniff MAC hardware addresses to turn up stolen electronic goods such as iPads, laptops and desktop computers.

In a decision that opens up a whole new world of swatting, Iowa's 'The Gazette' newspaper reports that city officer David Schwindt has created a piece of software to go to war for MAC addresses in an effort to catch criminals that steal electronic goods.

Schwindt calls his software L8-NT and with a suitable antenna, it will try to match any MAC addresses it encounters with known stolen goods that are already in a database.

Of course, Schwindt was quick to acknowledge that people might not have ever noticed or cared about the MAC address of their laptop, desktop or smart TV.

Naturally, if the device in question is turned off or is powered down, it's not going to be visible, but that's not the point.

We must note our readers that while MAC addresses are assigned on a unique basis by the IEEE, they're no longer immutable, meaning any tech-savvy crook with time to spare can hide the provenance of stolen goods.

Then there's ploys like Apple's decision to randomly change iThings' MAC addresses, which the company implemented in iOS 8 as a way to make it harder to identify devices connecting to public Wi-Fi networks.

Schwindt promises that his software doesn't look for any personally sensitive information while it's scanning for contraband MAC addresses, but could create another problem if a 'bad guy' with the right information created a new swatting attack by entering a target's home gateway via the nearly-always-unchanged default password, then giving it a MAC address that will surely interest the police.

Iowa's The Gazette reckons the officer hopes to patent L8-NT, which looks a bit of a stretch since reading MAC addresses is a pretty fundamental networking capability to most system admins with very basic knowledge of how a network functions with various pieces of equipment that all have a fixed MAC address...

Source: Iowa's The Gazette Newspaper.

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