MAC Addresses

The MAC, or Media Access Control Address, is one of the most vital identity elements in computer networking.

Every addressable network device, be it a managed switch, modem, network card, or router, is assigned a unique address when it is manufactured. The MAC address has a format

xx-xx-xx-xx-xx-xx

where each “x” is a hexadecimal character. Each of the 12 hexadecimal characters is assigned, intentionally, by the manufacturer, to prevent duplication by any other networked device, either now, or in the future.

Some misguided persons believe that changing the MAC address of their computer (network card) is a way to hide themselves. This is an erroneous assumption, and can lead to worse problems.

  • It is a form of Security by Obscurity.
  • You absolutely must have a unique MAC address on all networked devices. If you go changing this identity element, and cause a conflict, you could cause yourself and other people grief.
  • If you change your MAC address in an attempt to change your IP address on a public Internet service, you could cause pain for a few people, including another subscriber, and the ISP. Changing your IP address is yet another form of Security by Obscurity.

In short, Just Say No. No changing the MAC address. There is but one specific situation where your MAC address should be changed.

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