Apple’s MAC address privacy feature never worked

Since Apple rebranded As a “privacy” company Several years ago, it was introducing features designed to show its commitment to the security of users. Although customers may feel more secure using an iPhone, it is already secure lots of evidence Apple’s branding efforts don’t always match the reality of its products. In fact, a lot of its privacy features don’t actually work.

case in point: new research Turns out that one of the privacy tools proposed by Apple – a feature that was supposed to anonymize mobile users’ connections to Wi-Fi – is effectively “useless”. In 2020, Apple introduced a feature When turned on, it should have hidden the iPhone user’s media access control—or MAC—address. When a device connects to a WiFi network, it must first send its MAC address so the network can recognize it; When the same MAC address pops up in a network one after another, it can be used by network observers to identify and track the activities of a specific mobile user.

Apple’s specialty had to provide Randomize MAC addresses for users as a way to prevent this type of tracking. But, apparently, a bug in the feature persisted for years that made the feature effectively useless.

according to a new report From Ars Technica, researchers recently tested this feature to see if it actually hid their MAC address, only to find that it didn’t do so at all. Ars writes:

Despite the promise that this never-changing address would be hidden and replaced with a private address that would be unique to each SSID, Apple devices have continued to display the real address, which in turn is known to every SSID on the network. Is broadcast to another connected device.

Tommy Miske, one of the researchers behind the discovery of the vulnerability, told Ars that, “the feature was useless because of this bug,” and that, try as he might, he “could not stop the device” from making these search requests. Sending even with VPN. Even in lockdown mode.”

What Apple’s justification for advertising a feature that clearly doesn’t work, I’m not sure. Gizmodo contacted the company for comment and will update this story if they respond. A recent update, iOS 17.1Apparently fixes the problem and makes sure the feature actually works.

Any corporate effort to take user privacy into account should be encouraged – if that effort is legitimate. Over the past several years, Apple has undoubtedly released some privacy features sound Well—at least, on paper. That said, if features don’t actually work, what does it mean?

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