My Mac mini was stolen from my office and I think it was stolen by one of my colleagues. All of them are software engineers and I think the thief will install a fresh version of macOS on the stolen Mac mini. So I know I can't find it anymore by the Find My Mac ability provided by Apple.

So I went to the police station and gave them the stolen Mac mini's MAC addresses for Wi-Fi and Ethernet (from labels on box the stolen Mac mini originally came in). The police told me they can send a letter to all ISPs and ask them to trace all packets for the sender MAC addresses to find my Mac mini.

The First Question: Is this possible?

The Second Question: If the thief uses a Wi-Fi bundle to access the Internet (every external Wi-Fi bundle has a unique MAC address), can the police still find him/her?

  • Possible only if the thief doesn't spoof the MAC address ... – DavidPostill Mar 15 at 13:10
  • @DavidPostill Thank You Bro. But My Second Question is If She/He Use A External Wifi Bundle To Connect To The Internet ?! You Know External Wifi Bundle Has Its Own Mac Address And Internal Wifi Mac Address Never Use To Trace Or Some Thing Else ... – farzin borujerdi Mar 15 at 13:22
  • @farzinborujerdi - You will be unable to locate a device by it's MAC address. Within an internal network, the MAC address is not exposed, unless software running on the machine, captures that information. Even then, the MAC Address offers zero information on the location. – Ramhound Mar 15 at 14:03
  • @Ramhound I Know How Networks Work and What's Mac Address Role Exactly. But The Police Told Me They Can Ask All ISPs To Trace All Packets And Open Them - Read Their Header To Find Which Packet Contains My Mini Mac's Mac Address. From That ISPs Contract To That User They Can Find The Location of Internet Owner. This Is More Possible I Think , If He/She Use The Mobile Network Hotspot To Connect To The Internet. Then Mobile Number and Accurate Location Will More Accessible Than DSL Lines Internets. – farzin borujerdi Mar 15 at 17:50
  • MAC addresses don't cross borders, so it will never pass any router they connect it to. The advice you were given is mistaken/misleading. – Tetsujin Mar 15 at 18:40

They will not send a letter to every ISP (even within your country) to look for a single stolen device. They could but it's highly unlikely that they will and even if they did they probably won't find it. Theoretically what they said is possible but practically the success chance is slim and it would be a lot of work.

A MAC address is a point to point address used within a network. For an ISP to look for a MAC address that device has to be directly connected to their network and it has to use a connection that uses a MAC address. Usually company networks and most home networks have a router of some sort and as such the ISP won't see the MAC addresses of attached devices.

  • Dear @Seth, Thanks For Your Answer. I Heard That The ISPs Can Open The Packet (By Some Hard Solutions) And See The Origin's First Mac Address. Unless , The Solutions Are Possible Or Not , If The Thief Be Smart , I Think He/She Can Use The External Wifi Bundle , And Actually He/She Is Using New And Unique Unknown Mac Address For Accessing The Internet , And It Makes Our Chance To Zero ! Yes ?! Am I Right ?! – farzin borujerdi Mar 15 at 13:34
  • I don't want to discourage you but what you're likely talking about is deep packet inspection and while you can dig deep into the network you can't discover information that simply isn't there. Imagine sending a package to a relative and he sends it to its final destination after removing the sticker that would tell the receiver its from you. The postal service could check the current label but it wouldn't be able to read the removed label. As mentioned there could be circumstances where it could work but if a device like a router, your dongle or a spoof hides the MAC the chance is zero. – Seth Mar 15 at 13:43
  • If it was stolen at work talk to your superiors and/or security and/or a lawyer. Maybe some cameras could have footage depending on whenever you got cameras or not. – Seth Mar 15 at 13:44
  • Dear @Seth, There Are Some Cameras But Outside of The Room. The Room Has No Camera Installed , And We Checked Outside Room Cameras , Some of Our Colleague Went In Or Out Of The Room Every Day ! Just That ! We Don't Know Which One Is The Thief ... Every Body Can Put a Mini Mac On Their Pocket or Coat Or Bags ! – farzin borujerdi Mar 15 at 17:49

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