Each serve as a more reliable identification within a

Each device is linked to the Internet using a physical Network Interface Card. This NIC card has a exclusive id assigned by its manufacturer known as the MAC Address and is stored in its hardware. The MAC (Media access Control) address is a physical address for every node or adapter on a network. It represents a unique number identifier to network interfaces for data communication. This 12-digit hexa-decimal string is usually in the format 00:00:0M:0A:0C or 00-00-0M-0A-0C with a combination of digits and letters. The leftmost 6 digits called a “prefix”, assigned by the IEEE, is associated with the adapter manufacturer and the rightmost digits of a MAC address represent an identification number for the specific device (Mitchell, 2017).

In addition to their core networking use, MAC addresses are often used for other purposes including Static IP Assignment, MAC Address Filtering, MAC Authentication, Device Identification, and Device Tracking (Hoffman,2017). Network switches work with MAC addresses to improve traffic flow of the network by sending traffic only towards the necessary port of the destination MAC address. This enhances the active bandwidth of the network and the switch prevents sending traffic on unnecessary parts of the network. When a device is connected on a network for Internet access, this unique MAC address is broadcasted on this network, and a server responds with an available IP address for use to send data packets from one device to the intended other device. Therefore, if there is not a MAC address, an IP address cannot be obtained. Likewise, with the case of dynamic assignment of IPs, the MAC Address can serve as a more reliable identification within a network, especially when diagnosing network issues and for access control. Having the MAC address exposed is not necessarily a security issue assuming there is full control and necessary security measures and management are in place on the network. However, there are connections to certain spaces where a user does have not control and this exposure can then be utilized by intruders to identify a device and its user. This is where other actions can be taken to alleviate these possibilities.

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While it is a universal and permanent form of identification, changing the MAC address built into network hardware is feasible. The MAC Address is a crucial factor essential for certain network protocols to function. So, there are many reasons for changing this MAC address. It can be applied as a method in exposing security weaknesses and is necessary to keep a connection working. By default, some Internet Service Providers permit a limited number of devices to connect to the Internet and will link a connection to the MAC address of the device. MAC can be configured to bypass certain network restrictions to have the same MAC address as the allowed device. The network will then recognize the device thus allowing it to connect and obtain access to networks or conceal who it really is hence providing more Internet privacy from monitoring in some conditions.

                Changing the MAC Address of a node on a Window system can be performed through a few ways which includes the Device Manager and the Registry Editor. To change the MAC Address value using the Device Manager, the program is located in the Control Panel. Navigate the Network Adapters portion and find the intended adapter. Double-click on the adapter which will open a new window and locate the “Advanced” tab. Select the “Network Address” property under the list of options. Next, select the “Value” radio dialog and enter in the new MAC Address without dashes or colons. Click OK to apply the change.  To change the MAC value using the Registry Editor, first press the Windows key + R to open the “Run” window and type “regedit” and click OK. The Registry Editor will open in another window. Navigate to the following key in the left side panel: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SYSTEM CurrentControlSet Control Class {4D36E972-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318} and find the subkey folder with the “DriverDesc” value that matches with your network card. In my example (Geeks, 2017). In the right panel, locate the entry for the Network Address and double-click to enter the new value of the MAC Address and confirm. If the entry doesn’t exist, right-click the blank area to create a string value with the name “NetworkAddress” (Geeks, 2017). Disable and re-enable the intended adapter. The change from either option can be verified by running the “ipconfig /all” command that shows your network connection details and checking what MAC address the network interface reports afterwards.

The MAC address is an important and useful element of computer networking. MAC addresses uniquely identify an interface on the local network and allows messages to be sent between two physical connected devices that will be disregarded by other devices that share the same connection. While it can be altered, the MAC Address can never permanently be changed from its original value but as demonstrated above, it instead spoofs the value so that the device in the network refers this device with the provided value. This functionality within an operating system allows for proper identification of devices, improved flow of packet traffic on switches, exposure to security holes, and controls access to known devices along with other valued uses. This valuable knowledge can be used as a method in establishing secure connections to a network.