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Random MAC address while scanning for wireless networks

asked 2014-06-09 16:31:44 +0300

updated 2014-06-09 18:32:33 +0300

nodevel gravatar image

I stumbled upon this tweet describing how iOS 8 will randomize the WLAN MAC address when scanning for wireless networks. Without credible sources the tweet is quite useless but the idea is sound. Minimizing your device footprint while roaming the world would be a good thing. Any chance Jolla might consider this?

MAC address changing has already been covered here.

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Could someone explain the benefits of something like this?

And if it is easy to be implemented in SFOS.

ApB ( 2014-06-09 18:09:27 +0300 )edit

There are articleswrittenabout it. The basic privacy issue is that your mobile phone's bluetooth and wireless MAC addresses are semi-unique. This facilitates trivial phone tracking for anyone with wifi/bluetooth sniffing capabilities.

takes off tinfoil hat

I cannot say anything about implementing this, sorry.

jzrz ( 2014-06-09 21:21:35 +0300 )edit

Reason for implementing this (from

In shopping malls, for instance, a firm called Euclid Analytics collects, in its own words, “the presence of the device, its signal strength, its manufacturer (Apple, Samsung, etc.), and a unique identifier known as its Media Access Control (MAC) address.” In London last year, one start-up installed a dozen recycling bins that sniffed MAC addresses from passers-by, effectively tracking people through the area via their phones. Such companies go to great lengths to explain that such information in not personally identifiable—except that repeated studies have shown that this data can indeed be used to infer a great deal about your life.

Randomizing your MAC while looking for wi-fi networks (and why not while connecting to open networks if the user chooses so) would negate those kind of practices.

icebox ( 2014-06-10 15:50:34 +0300 )edit

It also applies to Bluetooth. In London recycle bins tracked MAC addresses on the streets. Luckily the trial was stopped.

jzrz ( 2014-06-10 16:14:28 +0300 )edit

It should be technically possible, I just tried changing my wifi mac address by doing devel-su and typing "ifconfig wlan0 hw ether 01:23:34:45:56:67" and it seemed to succeed. (Well, at least network scanning still works, not sure about connecting to a network, didn't try very hard, perhaps if I restarted wpa_supplicant or something...)

ovekaaven ( 2015-08-13 06:04:29 +0300 )edit

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answered 2014-06-09 16:37:32 +0300

Here are the slides:

There are also other nice ideas there too, app permissions requiring a justification by the developer that is shown to the user etc.

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answered 2017-03-10 12:58:01 +0300

DaveRo gravatar image

Three years later ...

A study has been published into MAC randomization:

The failure of Android devices to implement this is tentatively ascribed to "802.11 chipset and firmware incompatibilities" so my guess is that my Jolla C is the same.

Anybody know?

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Yeah, the Jolla C does not do mac address randomization but it does not either scan wlan networks with active scanning (excluding the hidden networks configured on the device) like iOS-devices do. As the passive scanning is used the SFOS-devices will not give away the list of configured networks on the device.

tigeli ( 2017-03-12 23:05:02 +0300 )edit

Does any of the newer devices use mac address randomization?

sailr ( 2020-01-05 02:46:34 +0300 )edit
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Asked: 2014-06-09 16:31:44 +0300

Seen: 1,206 times

Last updated: Mar 10 '17