Today, our networking system isn’t perfect. With security, convenience, and efficiency, there’s a great deal of room for improvement. Nonetheless, Mac addresses, which you can check for yourself through MAC address lookup tools, are why it is at least possible.
To understand how far we’ve come, let’s see how our approach to networking has evolved.
Networking: Then versus Now
In earlier versions of networking, the way that a connection was established involved direct, physical data linking. This was the point-to-point system where access to a network was determined by two computers serving as endpoints of communication. This certainly offered security and isolation but was clearly a bit limited in its scope.
Later, the concept of local area networks provided itself as a shared platform for enabling physical connections beyond just two users. The ethernet cable would also be introduced to make this process even more convenient and streamlined.
However, despite these benefits, it was clear that the limited reach of P2P connections had its advantages, which would be lost with the advent of local area networking.
That left us with a few key problems, the most important being that, with more than two connections taking place, how do you identify those who are sending and receiving information during this exchange. Enter the media access control (MAC) credentials.
A New Age
Today, every single networking device, be it a router or switch, or personal devices like PCs, tablets, or mobile phones, possess a MAC address that acts as their physical identifier within the confines of any local area network. The first half of this number is specific to the vendor, while the other half is unique to the device, like an individual’s fingerprint.
This 48-bit, hexadecimal sequence of numbers is assigned by the manufacturing process and can be seen on the back of hardware that is involved in processing network packages, namely the switches or routers. With gadgets like computers and phones, it is usually advertised on the network interface card (NIC) or LAN adapter.
To look up your MAC address, you can use the command prompt in your Windows PC or the network settings of your MacOS, tablet, or phone. If you’re interested in details regarding who gave you your MAC address, look no further than the free MAC lookup tools available online.
The Upsides of MAC Addressing
Instead of being shared by multiple devices connecting to a single network like IP addresses, being unique to each device within a network allows easy identification of each endpoint. This enables the router to perform MAC filtering, which is where it collects the MAC details of each new connection.
By keeping a list of authorized devices based on their MAC addresses, the router can therefore keep tabs on the exchanges taking place within the local network and keep unidentified, suspicious users at bay until authorization.
It is worth clarifying that while each device has a specific MAC address, it can only be used to respond to a single type of interface. But the devices of today should be able to link seamlessly with both Ethernet and wireless connections.
To deal with this, it is possible for routers and other networking nodes to have more than one physical address dedicated to maintaining connectivity with any medium.
Ditch the Cable
Establishing or maintaining P2P connections without transmission cables was essentially unheard of in the past. Now, however, we don’t need to ensure that, thanks to MAC addressing. Through it, both Wireless LANs and the relatively inexpensive and low-maintenance twisted pair cables offer a much more convenient connectivity pipeline for home networking.
Can Others Use Your MAC Address?
Strictly speaking, the usefulness of the MAC details of your device is limited to the LAN that you are working within. Even if someone else manages to get your MAC details, which is pretty difficult with private networks, there is little chance of them making any use of them outside a network.
However, there might be a few cybersecurity implications of MAC leaks that are worth considering. Firstly, if your MAC address gets in the hands of someone that managed to access your network, they can assume your identity and “spoof” by posing as you. This can make it difficult for your router to perform filtering, or you might be framed in suspicious online activity.
On the other hand, by stealing a router’s address, hackers can create “phony” networks and trick users into connecting to them through man-in-the-middle data breaching.
While these are potentially serious scenarios, you can stay safe by avoiding some public Wi-Fi hotspots and sticking to SSL-encrypted sites.
While websites offering MAC address lookup services can tell you more about your device manufacturer’s details, the fact that you can connect your devices to a network at all is a real testament to how important MAC credentials really are.