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A new software product designed to help law enforcement agencies recover stolen Wi-Fi devices was recently launched by L8NT. Some common examples are laptops, tablet computers, cellular telephones, televisions, gaming systems, and many types of medical equipment. Prior to the launch of the new application, there was no tool available to actively search and locate these types of devices.
According to the company’s press release, the current method for law enforcement to identify a lost device is to physically examine it to obtain the make, model, and serial number. However, physical examination of most devices is extremely difficult because of Constitutional search and seizure issues. The result is an FBI estimated 3% recovery rate for stolen laptops.
This low recovery rate is a result of law enforcement’s reliance on serial numbers. While serial numbers are a valuable identification option for warranty repair, they are not effective for locating property in an unknown location. While some of these devices may not be expensive to replace, there may be a great value to law enforcement in apprehending the offenders who committed the crimes and victims recovering their data.
L8NT’s application was designed to run on the computers already in squad cars. While the squad cars are driven on their daily patrol the L8NT application is constantly analyzing the Wi-Fi traffic in the area for any devices in the L8NT database. The device’s Wi-Fi only needs to be enabled. It does not need to be connected to a network and connection to an encrypted network does not protect the device from detection.
L8NT works by searching for a device based on its media access controller (MAC) address. The MAC address can be thought of as a “digital fingerprint” that is transmitted over Wi-Fi. Because Wi-Fi signals can pass through walls, devices can often be detected from the public space outside Constitutionally protected areas.
L8NT provides information to help law enforcement and victims learn their device’s MAC address even after it has been stolen. Once a stolen device’s MAC address is known, law enforcers can enter that device into L8NT’s database. L8NT’s cloud service works to synchronize the database with all participating agencies in a given region, such as the United States. This creates a “distributed detection network” made up of all the squad cars running the L8NT application. The detection network makes it possible to detect a device in a jurisdiction other than where the device was stolen. Once a stolen device is detected, the L8NT application helps the user locate the device with integrated Google Maps and signal strength graphing.