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Don’t Go Spoofing My MAC

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I am no tech-head – I know what I know reasonably well because I use it all the time, but anything outside my immediate range of computer behaviors is pretty much terra incognita.

But I am gradually adding to my knowledge – this post on a crackdown on file sharers at Penn State led to an offhand comment from a tech friend along the lines of “well, there are now 220 students who will learn how to change their MAC addresses.”

So I asked our omniscient site administrator Phillip Winn, what is this thing called “MAC”?

His all-seeing but scrupulous reply:

    MAC = Media Access Control. It’s a lower-level address than an IP address, and it’s on your network card. For example, a valid IP address might be: The same network card that responds to that address has a lower-level address, too, which would be something like 00:d0:09:51:b0:90.

    You can start up a command prompt and type the following to find out what yours is: ipconfig /all
    Then just look at the “Physical Address” line to determine your MAC address.

    I can’t think of what use you might have for software to change it. That’s *generally* only useful to hackers.

And people who don’t want to be nuked for file sharing, I would imagine.

The SMAC software that allows you to change your MAC address on the Windows 2000 and XP systems also lists these reasons why one might want to do such a thing:

    Test Security Vulnerability on MAC Address based Authentication and Authorization Systems

    Build “TRUE” Stand-by (offline) systems with the EXACT same CompterName, IP, and MAC ADDRESSES as the Primary Systems. If Stand-by systems should be put online, NO arp table refresh is necessary, which eliminates extra downtime.

    Build High-Availability solutions

    Troubleshoot Network problems. Arp Tables, Routering, Switching, …

    Troubleshoot system problems

    Test network management tools

    Test incident response procedures on simulated network problems

    Test Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), whether they are Host and Network Based IDS.

    Some software can ONLY be installed and run on the systems with pre-defined MAC address in the license file. If you need to install one of these applications to another system with a different NIC, SMAC will come handy. Make sure you comply with the vendor’s licensing agreement.

    If for whatever reason you need to keep the same MAC address as your old NIC, but your old NIC failed…

    Some Cable Modem ISP’s assign IP addresses base on the PC’s MAC addresses. For whatever reason, if you need to swap 2 PC’s regularly to connect to the cable modem, it would be a lot easier to change the MAC addresses rather than to change Network Interface Card (NIC). (Of course a cable modem router like Linksys or Netgear would be even easier for this job, and many cable modem routers have a “Clone MAC Address” feature built-in for this purpose.) Check with your ISP and make sure you are not violating any service agreements.

There you have it. The developers also caution that SMAC is developed for RESPONSIBLE, LEGAL AND ETHICAL USE ONLY!!!

But of course.

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