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Can Latent be used to track and/or monitor citizens?

No. Latent was designed to search for stolen devices. When a device is reported stolen to law enforcement there is the option to enter the device’s Media Access Controller (MAC) address into the Latent database. Signals from devices that are not in the Latent database are ignored. No data from or about these devices is saved to disk or made available to the user or the Latent system.

Can I use Latent to search for my missing/stolen device?

Latent is only available to law enforcement agencies. This decision was made to comply with federal codes and to prevent Latent from being used as a tool in stalking, harassment, or other crimes.

Can Latent tell what is being transmitted to or from devices?

No. Latent uses our proprietary protocol driver so no content data is ever analyzed, saved to disk, or made available to law enforcement or the Latent system. When a packet is received the MAC address(es) and signal strength information are stripped from the packet and all other data is ignored.

Does Latent require expensive, special hardware?

No. Latent was designed to use our Scout adapter, a low-cost Wi-Fi adapter, in combination with the Microsoft Windows® operating system. Many wireless sniffing software packages require specialized hardware. It was important for Latent to use inexpensive hardware so that equipping squad cars would be affordable to implement. The Scout adapter connects via USB and costs only $40.


What do we need to enter to search for a device?

You will need to enter the device’s MAC address into Latent. A MAC address is a unique identifier assigned to a network controller. 

How do we find the MAC address of a device?

Some of the most common methods are logging into a home access point and checking the client table, a company’s IT asset inventory, a college/corporate campus’ IT department’s Wi-Fi network logs, and the device’s original packaging.

Can a MAC address be changed?

MAC addresses can be changed, or spoofed, on some devices, with knowledge. Typically, this change must be made each time the device is powered on.  Cell phones and tablets (Android and iOS devices) must be modifed by “rooting” or “jailbreaking” to provide the user with the necessary access to spoof the MAC address.  Televisions, gaming consoles, medical equipment, etc. typically do not have the interface or software to change it. If a stolen device is being used with a spoofed MAC address it will not be detected by Latent. While spoofing is possible on some devices we think it is important to remember that suspects are still identified and convicted using fingerprint evidence. Fingerprints have been a known source of evidence for over 100 years and gloves are certainly easier to put on that spoofing a MAC address. 

Does a device have to be connected to a network to be detected?

No, as long as the Wi-Fi controller is not disabled. When a Wi-Fi controller is enabled, it will send out packets looking for known and/or available networks in the area. These packets contain the device’s MAC address and will be used by Latent to alert the user of the device’s presence.

Can a device be detected if it is connected to a secure network?

Yes. The device’s MAC address is stored in the header of a packet which is not encrypted, even when connected to a secure network.


What is the benefit of mapping networks?

Forensic tools can frequently extract date and time-stamped Wi-Fi network connection information from mobile devices. If an investigator knows the physical location of the Wi-Fi network, they can place the device in a specific area at a specific date and time. This can provide valuable intelligence that may otherwise be missed.

Why is mapping by Latent better than other services?

Latent provides a tool to collect your own network location information. This provides investigators with data from a known source with specific date and time information that includes when a network was first seen at that location and when it was most recently seen. This provides much more actionable information that publicly crowd-sourced or anonymously submitted information.

Does Latent work with forensic applications?

Latent is compatible with Cellebrite’s® Physical Analyzer application via a free Python script. We are currently working with several other forensic application providers.

What if my primary forensic tool is not compatible?

You can always query network information via our web interface at any time at no charge. Simply enter the BSSID displayed in your forensic application into the search utility and Latent will return the results. We are always interested to hear if there is an integration that would help you with your work, so please send us a message if there is an integration you would like to have added.

Find more stolen devices, deter criminals, and recover evidence today!