Smartphones have always been a target of data hackers to gather information about the user and the many flaws in the existing operating systems like Android and iOS have not really helped to combat this problem. Although iOS is usually considered more stable and secured than other operating systems, even Apple’s ecosystem has been criticized for its flaws which hackers exploit to get important data.
As a report earlier noted, Smartphone’s Wi-Fi could easily reveal information about its user and many government agencies, marketing companies and even local stores have been using Wi-Fi to gather location information about a user.
Many analytics firms have even confirmed that they collect information like the smartphone manufacturer, signal strength, and even MAC (Media Access Control) addresses using a turned on Wi-Fi. While these firms claim that the collected information does not reveal anything about a user’s identity, these information can reveal many things about a user’s lifestyle.
However, now these firms may have a reason to be worried about as the latest OS update from Apple, iOS 8 comes with measures to prevent such collection of data. As a swiss developer notes, iOS 8 devices randomizes MAC addresses which prevents hackers and other agencies from identifying your device or your identity.
While a user’s device is searching for a Wi-Fi network, the nearby router collects information like the MAC address and the signals which can be used to identify a user. For example, this information will help stores identify frequent customers, or even popularity of a particular section in the store.
But with random MAC addresses, these stores won’t be able to identify a particular user and every time the user visits the place with a turned on Wi-Fi, it will send out a different MAC address.
However, there’s a catch. Randomizing MAC addresses will protect the user only when he or she does not connect to the router. But if the user connects to a nearby free Wi-Fi, the MAC address as well as other information will be shared with the router.
But still, this is a great move by Apple and given that one in three smartphones in US is an iOS device, millions of iOS users will be protected from snooping, thanks to this particular tweak. Also, the update adoption rate for iOS users is very high which means that once the update is released; most of the users will shift to iOS 8.
Hopefully, other operating systems like Android will adopt a similar standard when it comes to Wi-Fi MAC address sharing in the coming future.
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