Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Let's imagine the following situation:

"Overintelligent hacker connects to Wi-Fi points across country and performs illegal activities that get government's attention.

If all the government can get is routers' logs which IP was assigned and connected, it is still internal IP. Now let's assume they exposed hacker's MAC address which was faked."

How can investigators solve the puzzle?

Can that hacker be traced and if he can, then how? And does ISP stores router's MAC address in its database for tracing?

share|improve this question
MAC addresses do not propagate all the way over the network (and surely not onto the other end of the internet), unless you're using IPv6, in some cases. – Arjan Oct 7 '11 at 13:08
up vote 4 down vote accepted

If the hacker uses the same web-browser he can be lost likely tracked as most web-browsers have it's own fingerprint (or at least a fingerprint that is very likely to be unique). This fingerprint does not include cookies but all other information your browser exposes and that does not change often like supported languages, installed plugins...

Get your own browsers fingerprint:

share|improve this answer

Online, it is unlikely it could be tracked any further to the router he is connected to.

However, there are many offline techniques that should be considered. For example, it may be possible to use other security such as CCTV to link someone to being at a certain place at a time. Combined with a log, could show that they were responsible.

... Or forgetting CCTV, if you purchase a Big Mac! (Thanks @Psycogeek!)

share|improve this answer

It is unlikely that the laptop MAC or IP are used for this sort of tracing. Much more likely are:

  • persistent cookies (especially evercookies, which are extremely persistent)
  • browser fingerprinting (as mentioned by @Robert)
  • usage (if you log into the same website/application, that end can be logged and traced - patterns can indicate identity)

You may possibly get tracked back by IP to the wireless network you are on, which can then be followed up physically.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.