More privacy or just annoying control

There are a lot of things you should be doing. Eat right, exercise and get enough sleep. These are some of the important things we should be doing as humans but there is quite a few things we should be doing with and for our computers.

  • backup our data
  • keep security patches up to date
  • be nice to your IT people

Unfortunately, we don’t always do these things but I decided to get my IT back under control and so I decided to start with the router. A new router, heck even the previous generation router has a lot of technology support beyond what you might expect – NAS, Television Streaming support, VPN and more.

I decided to work on the more mundane tasks such as ensuring that every device in the network had a name and that old devices were disabled. Ideally the next step will be to refuse any devices whose MAC address is not known.

Imagine my surprise to see my wife “owned” at least six identical iphones. That is simply not possible so I locked each of them down that did not have a MAC address equal with her actual phone. Unfortunately this was every single phone and yes, my wife was not impressed she had been locked out of the network. I could see that one of the phones actually was connected about a minute ago, the MAC did not match but I enabled it anyway. Believe it or not, that worked. The MAC address is a unique identifier that is burned into into the network card. How can this be?

This constant value is what helps make the entire system work. The router will typically assign the same IP address to the same MAC each time it expires. Apple did realize this could actually provide a unique identifier that the network operators could use to track you. They actually modified iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and watchOS 7 so your devices don’t actually give their actual MAC when trying to join a network.

If you delete the iPhone entry from your network list and rejoin you will probably get a different IP address because the router got a different MAC address.

It really isn’t a big deal now that I know about this change from Apple but in this case knowing IT makes it harder to work with your new Apple iPhone not easier.

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