The battle of privacy versus usability is ongoing and can take many subtle forms. Apple has used its mobile iOS operating system as a way to push its privacy messages for a number of years. One of the ways that it’s stepped this up recently was through MAC address randomization. Initially, iOS would randomize the MAC address used to probe for networks before connecting. In the early beta stages of iOS 14 in 2020, Apple also looked at using a completely random MAC address for connectivity every 24 hours. While this feature was later dropped, the challenges it exposed are still part of the networking community today.
Apple may be focused on helping keep people safe and secure with MAC randomization, but it has also shown how many of the things that we rely upon in wireless to help us track devices and ensure consistent connectivity of high quality rely on a stable client address. What happens when that address changes every day? How can our systems keep up? What tools can we use to fix these issues quickly?
Jim Palmer has had his share of client-side connection challenges in his previous roles. His new role at a wireless manufacturer means he’s right on the front lines of solving these challenges. He had previously written several great posts covering all of the issues with MAC address randomization last year. He’s collected them into a great omnibus reference sheet for you to check out, just in case Apple decides to bring this feature back. As Jim says:
Don’t fall asleep on this topic! Many people think the slight hiccup they saw on networks last fall is all there was and they have weathered the storm, but the storm is coming back. While talking about random/private MAC addresses has long since left the list of my favorite things to talk about I’m still doing it and if you have any questions or comments please feel free to reach out to me in the comments below.
Read more at Jim’s blog here: Everything I Know About MAC Randomization