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iOS 14 and watchOS 7 will hand out a randomly generated MAC address when joining a Wi-Fi network

By Ng Chong Seng - on 25 Jun 2020, 9:13am

iOS 14 and watchOS 7 will hand out a randomly generated MAC address when joining a Wi-Fi network

Apple has over the years hardened Wi-Fi security on iOS.

For instance, iOS has been using randomised MAC (Media Access Control) addresses when doing Wi-Fi scans as far back as iOS 8. Using a randomised MAC address prevents a wireless network from knowing your true Wi-Fi address before your device is associated to it.

In iOS 14, Apple is bringing randomised MAC addresses to Wi-Fi networks you’re joining, too. Enabled by default, you will find the ‘Use Private Address’ toggle and the randomly generated MAC address when you click through to see more info of the network.

Like for the Wi-Fi scans, the point of this is to hide your real MAC address from Wi-Fi networks — when you join them — to prevent tracking. To help you better understand: since each network interface has its own unique MAC address, think of this as the identity card number for your device’s Wi-Fi controller.

Randomising MAC addresses is most useful when you roam. To give an example, say you’re now on Wi-Fi network X in Bedok and an hour later you’d join network Y in Tampines. With a fixed address, both networks will get the same ID and this gives away your movements. Also, since MAC addresses can often be traced back to the manufacturers, these randomly generated ones may also hide the fact that they come from an Apple device.

This private MAC feature is also coming to the Apple Watch via watchOS 7. I’ve not checked, but I won’t be surprised it’s in macOS Big Sur as well.

Source: MacRumors.