7 Replies Latest reply: Feb 23, 2013 4:55 PM by Michael Black
drdakine Level 1 (0 points)

This question centers around theft of computers and iphones and tracing there of.  In the last 10 months, I have had two 15” MacBook Pros and a 64GB iphone stolen from my small business.  (It is now becoming apparent as an inside job.) Although I have Find my iPhone and Find my Mac activated on all of them, I have never had notification that they are on line.   I understand that both devices have unalterable IP addresses and other information that is apparent whenever they are on-line. My question is this:  What are thieves able to do to get around this and make these devices useful and saleable?  Apple seems to be stone-walling me on this question.  It seems very clear to me that these devices would be largely useless for the vast majority of users if they can never go on-line with them.  Yet an informative pawn-shop owner informed me that Apple computers and iPhones are popular with thieves, because they are able to fence them and they retain value.  How can they possibly have value other than as parts if they cannot be connected?  Apple will not tell me, but I am still presuming that there is some way the thieves are able to thwart traceability.  Otherwise, there would be no market for the stolen goods. I also wonder if there are other ways to trace these devices other than through the Apple tools available.

MacBook Pro, Mac OS X (10.5.3)
  • Michael Black Level 7 (20,377 points)

    No manufacturer tracks lost or stolen items, and none block their use in any way.  Apple is no different than any other electronic device company in that regard.


    Anyone with hands on to your devices can restore an iOS as new (wipes all your data off it so at least your stuff is gone) and then use it.  Anyone with any computer can reformat the hard drive, re-installl an OS and go off and use it.


    Companies do not play big brother and police what people do, or do not do, with their devices.  It is not their place to do so.  Apple is not a law enforcement agency.  If you have a device stolen, you need to be dealing with the police, not the equipment manufacturer or reseller.


    The theives are not thwarting anybody, as nobody is doing anything to stop them from re-using what they've stolen.  You are simply mistaken in your assumption that the manufactuerer or seller has any responsibility to do anything about it.

  • thomas_r. Level 7 (30,700 points)

    As Michael points out, nobody does the kind of tracking you suggest. There are serious practical and legal difficulties with doing so. Keep track of the serial numbers of all devices, and include the serial numbers in the police reports when something gets stolen.


    You may want to try some other tracking software, such as Prey. None is perfect, and none provides any kind of guarantee of recovery, but an unanticipated change might just be what it takes to catch the thief. It would also be wise to install hidden surveillance cameras in key locations in your business, since electronics are probably only one thing getting stolen.

  • drdakine Level 1 (0 points)

    Please don't patronize me.  I already know all of this and have been a Mac owner since the Mac Plus (1Mb internal memory, ).  If you want to help, please answer my questions, as in:


    I am told repeatably by Apple reps that the internal designation of both laptops and cell phones cannot be changed.

         Is this correct?

    They also tell me that the devices can be located by these identifications, when they are turned on and connected to the wireless network.

         Is this also correct?

    If so, these devices should be tracable under Find my iphone/Find my Mac forever.

         Is this not correct?


    If devices are forever tracable, they would be of virtually no value to theives as fencable items.

    Do you see my dilemma of logic now?  It would seem that at least one of the above assertions must be incorrect.

  • Michael Black Level 7 (20,377 points)

    There are various hardward addresses associated with any device that cannot be altered.  On an iPhone, for example, the IMEI.  It is entirely possible for any cellular phone to be tracked by its IMEI, and this is also the device ID that a CARRIER could use to block a device from accessing THEIR OWN network (a carrier who owns their own network does have the right to bar anyone, or any device, from accssing their network - but a device manufacturer or resller has no such right to interfere with use of a device by anyone).  It is also one way that LAW ENFORCEMENT, with appropriate permission granted by a court of law, can track and access a cellular device.


    Find my iPHone uses NONE of those hardware IDs however.  Find my iPhone uses a linked service account.  The iCloud account on the device is used to identify and track the device, through Apple's iCloud service, based on the account owners private account ID (linked to the device when they installed the account).   Once the iCloud account is removed or altered, Apple's sole and only means of legal (because it is considered a mutually agreed service, that one voluntarily installs and applies) providing a tracking system for a device no longer exists.  Note that Apple, as a corporate entity, does NOT track your device.  They merely provide the means for you to do so - they own the servers and they provide the service, but they do NOT know your account password and all control of installing an iCloud account, turning on find my iPhone, and using the tracking tools available are entirely under the control and resposibility of you, the account holder.  The entire system is designed to remove the corporation from any responsibility for the device, as they have no legal responsibility for it, nor do they have any legal rights to intervene with it once it has been sold.




    1. NO, find my iPhone is not forever traceable as no user enabled, voluntary software tracking feature is.  It is linked to a device solely by the iCloud account, not by hardware IDs.


    2.  YES, there are means of tracking any network connected hardware device.  But, use of those would require the interaction of law enforcement, acting under a court decree to do so.  No private company has the right to cross that line and start meddling in things that quite frankly, no private company nor individual should be meddling in.

  • drdakine Level 1 (0 points)

    This was a thoughtful and helpful post, which I appreciate.

    If what you say is correct, it would seem to point out severe laziness on the part of Law Enforcement. 

    That is, if this is true, they should be able to solve most any case involving a stolen mac or iphone.

  • SwankPeRFection Level 4 (1,435 points)

    Cops won't spend time finding stolen cars unless they sumble across one accidentally (pull one over and it's stolen or run a plate in traffic and it shows up as stolen or while investigating something else they find a vehicle used that was stolen)... doubt they'd spend a ton of manpower to find a stolen $2000 Mac or $600 iPhone.  Sorry for all your problems, but a better solution would be video surveillance in the business that you have.  Or start doing background checks on your employees and maybe consider hiring more ethical/trustworthy people.  I know it can be hard, but once someone pulls something on you and they see that there's no ramifications, they'll continue to do it... the really devious ones will do it repetitively spaced out across a long time too.  They may also choose to do it during times where you've maybe hired a new person who they can hope blame falls on, etc.  If it's this sporadic and inside, you can expect someone fairly intelligent in the act of deception and someone who has a very detail oriented way of functioning or working with things.  Maybe concentrate your observations of such employees in your company.

  • Michael Black Level 7 (20,377 points)

    drdakine wrote:


    This was a thoughtful and helpful post, which I appreciate.

    If what you say is correct, it would seem to point out severe laziness on the part of Law Enforcement. 

    That is, if this is true, they should be able to solve most any case involving a stolen mac or iphone.


    Actually, I would say, at least as far as cell phones go, the blame falls almost entirely on the carriers.  They DO have the rights and the capability to block any device from connecting to their networks via IMEI blocking.  BUT, it requires all carriers to do this or it's not effective, and that means they'd need to cooperate on a coordinated database of (confirmed) stolen and lost devices, and then just block them from connecting to ANY and EVERY network.


    There is absolutely nothing stopping that from happening (nothing technical that is), other then the unwillingless of carriers to do it (it wold cost them some money, and they make money of the connected lost and stolen devices, so why do it?).  Here in the USA, it has only been the threat of federal legislation to force them to do so that has begun (and merely begun - its a long way away from reality) the move to a nationally coordinated IMEI blocked database.


    That alone won't stop cell phone theft of course, since even the FBI admits one of the reasons for the growth of such crime, especially targeting smart phones, is identity and information theft (since survey stats also show the majority of smart phone users do not use passcode locks on their devices).  But if the carriers just blocked all confirmed reported lost or stolen devices, that would remove one major incentive for cell phone theft.