Although it is well-known that a VPN can mask an IP address but not the MAC address, what about the MAC address? It is possible for websites to track down the MAC address or it can be seen on your router, even if you use a VPN. It is essential to know what the MAC address and how devices use it in order to answer these questions. Let’s find out more about it.

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What is MAC address

MAC stands for Media Access Control which is an address that contains 12 symbols (ex. E8:FC:AF:B9:BE:A2) and is unique to every device. It is used to identify a physical device (or hardware) such as a network interface card (or NIC) on a local network. This address never changes as it is burned-in by a manufacturer.

In many cases, there are multiple devices connected to the same network – laptops, phones or TVs, and in order for a router to know which internet packets belong to which device it keeps track of every device’s MAC addresses. A router holds this information in an ARP table where for each MAC address a local IP address is assigned.

Let’s take a look at a graph on how devices communicate using MAC addresses:

A Graph How Devices Use MAC Address To Communicate over the network

Your device and a router communicate with each other over their MAC addresses. Once the router sends internet traffic beyond the local network, it removes your device’s MAC address and uses its. Each hop removes the MAC address of any previous devices and replaces it before sending more internet packets. Routers and other network equipment are limited to the MAC addresses of devices directly connected to them in a long network chain.

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Can websites view your MAC address

The websites cannot see the MAC address of your device, regardless of whether you use a VPN. This is because the router removes it from your internet traffic. Because it takes several hops to reach a router’s MAC address, the website cannot even see it.

Although MAC cannot be seen directly by websites, there are a few indirect ways to obtain it. These include extracting from your IPv6 or running a script on the device.

MAC address visible to websites via IPv6

Most people have heard of IPv4 or IPv6. Both versions are now assigned by many ISPs to accounts. It is interesting to note that the IPv6 format is very similar with your MAC address format. This is because sometimes, an IPv6 address can be made using it.

Your IPv4 address and IPv6 address are both visible when you visit a website. It is possible to extract your MAC from your IPv6 address. A VPN can be used to hide both IP addresses and prevent indirect access to your data. You might not receive all IPv6 addresses that use your device’s MAC address. Your ISP may assign you different ones.

Scripts will get your MAC address

A script that runs directly on your device is another way websites can get your MAC address. Although theoretically possible, it is extremely difficult to implement. To access your device’s information, you would need to trick yourself into granting administrator privileges.

It would be impossible to visit a website and click a random popup. Such a script cannot be run from a browser. It is possible to make it work if someone remotely connects and executes the script file.

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Can a VPN hide my MAC address from a router?

A router is a component of a local network. Your device communicates with it using its MAC address. A VPN will not hide your MAC address in a router’s network. VPN is used to hide IP addresses on the internet. You would have no access to the internet if your MAC address was hidden by a router.

How do you spoof your MAC

It is impossible to hide your MAC address on a local network. However, if you are worried that someone might find your device, there is a way to spoof it.

There are ways to change or fake your MAC address on every OS. You can also create a temporary one that rotates all the time. Here are the steps to spoof your MAC address on any platform.

How can you spoof your Windows 10 MAC address

Here are some steps to spoof your MAC address in Windows 10.

  1. In the Windows 10 search box, type Device Manager
  2. Locate Network Adapters, and then select Properties for your network adapter
  3. Select Advanced and choose Network address or local network address.
  4. Restart your device by changing the value in the box

How to spoof a macOS MAC address

Here are some ways to spoof your macOS MAC address:

  1. Turn off the wifi
  2. Launch Terminal app
  3. sed ‘s/(..)/1:/g; s/.$//’
  4. Use terminal command to set your new MAC address instead of X.
  5. Restart your device

How to fake your iOS MAC address

It is possible to fake your MAC address using iOS, but you will need to jailbreak your phone.

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How to fake your Android MAC address

Here are some ways to spoof your Android MAC address:

  1. Go to GooglePlay to download the Android Terminal Emulator app
  2. To get the network interface name, type’IP link show‘ in the app (it’s likely ‘wlan0).
  3. Type’IP link set wlan0XXXXXXXXXXYYY‘. Where wlan0 refers to your network interface name, and the new MAC address value.
  4. To check if your MAC address was changed, go to device properties.

Conclusion

VPN does not hide or affect your device’s MAC address. However, it doesn’t need to as it does not have to. Your MAC is not affected by VPN and does not travel further than your router in the long device chain. There are two ways you can find your MAC address indirectly. One is by extracting it from IPv6 and the other is by tricking yourself to run a script to send the information. You can use a VPN to conceal your IPv6 address and spoof your MAC address to protect yourself.

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Evangeline Christina is a Cyber Security Enthusiast, Security Blogger, Technical Editor, Certified Ethical Hacker, Author at Cyberspecial.net. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter in a reputed news agency.

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