What is a private Wifi address and should accountants care?

Apple in late 2020 released a new feature for its devices called private wifi addresses. This feature is available for iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and watchOS 7 devices. The goal of this feature is to offer anonymity when regularly connecting to public wifi access points. As an accountant, your important documents or credentials may be at risk while connected to these hotspots.

The idea of IP addresses is a little better understood by most people. An IP address is a number assigned to a device via the network’s software to connect to the internet. Then there’s the MAC address which is a series of letters and numbers assigned to the hardware. These identifiers are assigned to that device from the factory. Every device with a NIC (network interface card) comes with a hardwired MAC address that is unique to that card and device.

Where Apple comes in

Apple in software updates now allows different individual MAC addresses which are private wifi addresses for each network which the device connects to. By doing this they hope to limit a 3rd party’s ability to track patterns of activity with that device by tracking it across networks.

What changes?

Besides your MAC address, not much. If your router normally sends a notification when a new device joins, it will say that the device has a private address. You may run into problems also if there are parental controls enabled or the identity of the device is required in order to connect. In those rare cases this feature should be turned off. Also if you find yourself unable to access the internet, even though you’re currently connected, this feature should be disabled. There most likely is some setting on the network is causing interference.

How to enable a private wifi address

On iPhones, iPad, or iPod Touch

  1. Open the Settings app and tap on Wi-Fi
  2. Then tap on the information button (the blue i with a circle) next to the specific network.
  3. Then tap on Private Address.

Apple Watch

  1. Open the Settings app and tap on Wi-Fi
  2. Tap on the network’s name. Before you join the network, swipe left and tap on the *** for more.
  3. The ability to toggle on and off Private Address should be available now.

How using a private wifi address helps

With time, patience, and certain skills, cybercriminals are capable of some truly impressive exploits. Our phones are devices that are with us most often and can contain some of our most important information. If you’re already in the sights of a hacker, and they know you go to a coffee shop every morning, they don’t need to exploit a more secure network. All they have to do is infiltrate that public hotspot which may be configured with insecure, default passwords.

Read next: Data breach awareness: How do I know if my customer data was breached

How about a private wifi address on Android?

Although more difficult it’s not impossible to change your MAC address on your Android phone and create private wi-fi addresses. The method most similar to Apple’s implementation requires apps like BusyBox or ChameleMAC. Although these apps allow you to change your MAC on the fly, they also require your phone to be “rooted”. Rooting your phone gives you “root-level access” to the operating system and enables power users to modify almost every aspect of the Android. Rooting your phone isn’t for everyone. It’s often been a complicated process and also void many phone warranties.

Another way is the first method mentioned in this article.

It requires you to find your current MAC address, uses an app called Android Terminal, and type in a few commands. This may seem like a bit of a hassle but for the security-conscious they’ll gladly trade a few hoops for piece of mind.

What about Windows?

In this article by digitalcitizen they provide five ways to change your MAC address. Maybe the easiest and quickest way to perform this feat is with Technitium MAC Address Changer.  This software changes your MAC address editing the registry quicker and easier than having to do it manually. This is the quickest way to create a private wifi address. For convenience sake maybe do this once a week if you connect to the same public wifi hotspot regularly.

Do I need turn on private wifi address at home??

There shouldn’t be a need for switching up your MAC address all the time while connected to your home network. In fact, it may cause issues with that device being able to properly communicate with other devices on the network. If you set up your home or office network properly and in accordance with your WISP this shouldn’t be an issue.

Download now: Free Written Information Security Plan for Accountants (Free WISP)

Quick tips to secure your home network

  1. Never Use Default Password – Your router’s configuration can be changed with administrator credentials which are commonly never changed from its’ initial setup. All too often these default router credentials can be found with a simple Google search. By looking up either what the Internet Service Provider commonly sets it to or by the router’s make and model a hacker can get right in.
  2. Use a VPN – Many VPNs (Virtual Private Network) are cross-platform and multiple activations under one annual licensing fee. Masking your internet traffic with a VPN is a great way to remain protected.
  3. Use Antivirus Software – Having updated antivirus software helps prevent malware from being installed on the computer and reporting your important credentials back to its the creator.

Conclusion:

Apple is making an effort to help your personal information be more secure. However, security settings or software are only as good as the user. If you need assistance with making sure you’re as protected as possible, give Rush Tech Support a call at (888) 965-0171.

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