Networking

What is Mac Filtering? Everything You Need to Know

what is mac filtering


Most routers in the market come with a feature known as Mac filtering. It is an access controlling phenomenon that allows you to provide access to only those devices that are registered in your list to use your Wi-Fi network.

In theory, Mac filtering adds an extra layer of protection and is very easy to set up, and yet in practice, Mac filtering is tedious and the protection is easy to breach.

What is Mac Address Filtering?

To develop a better understanding of Mac Filtering, it is essential to understand the definition of Mac address first.

MAC is a technical acronym for Media Access Control. The Mac address is used as a unique identifier that indicates the specific physical interface device that is using the network.

We have developed an understanding of two types of adapters, both wired and wireless, and have seen the pros and cons of Ethernet vs. Wi-Fi as well. Both types of adapters have a unique 12-character label known as a MAC address. It recognizes and allows access to your computer and other added devices.

The knowledge of Mac filtering is essential because there is a misconception about security protection and its effectiveness. We will go through the pros and cons of Mac address filtering, how exactly we can find and set up wireless mac filtering, and its effect on the network’s security. Let’s get straight into it!

How to Find a Mac Address?

The first thing you need to do is find the Mac address. You can easily find it on any Windows PC by following these steps:

  1. Press Windows key + R and a dialog box will open
  2. Type cmd in the dialog box and press Ok
  3. A command prompt will open.
  4. Type ipconfig/all command and press enter
  5. A list with 12-digit number labelled as Physical Address will appear that represents the Mac Address.

There is another method called GUI-based method in practice to find the Physical Mac address. To apply this method, head to the Settings menu and go to Network & Internet, and then click the name of the active connection given. You can find the Physical Mac address at the bottom of Properties.

How to Configure MAC Address Filtering?

In the general scheme of things, the router allows all the devices with a specific password to connect if you do not have a wireless Mac filter. So if you are looking to limit access to your router, use a Mac filter.

You can make a list of devices you want to provide an access to your wireless network and block all the unwanted devices. The router will compare the Mac address of each device and allow access only to those devices that are there on your list.

To enable Mac address filtering on your router, configure and enter the list of Physical addresses you want to allow to use your Wi-Fi network, and turn on the Mac address filtering option.

wlan mac filter

Pros of Using a Mac Filter

A MAC address is a permanent address of a device that doesn’t change, very similar to a social security number or government-issued ID card number. So it helps the administrator to keep a record of all the connected devices. It will prevent your network from unwanted devices.

If you have several users and multiple devices connected to your home network and live in a neighborhood, then a Mac address filter is a very useful tool to have. For example, if your children have exams coming up and they waste a lot of time on the internet you can limit their internet access to specific hours in the day as wireless Mac filtering has a feature to allow or deny access at set timings.

Mac filter is easy to set up and configure, especially when you have a limited number of devices connected to the wireless network. Additionally, Mac filtering does not cost you anything as it is built into the router.

In large organizations and enterprises where there is an institutional setting, Mac filtering is extremely helpful. You mostly find a complex network with multiple access points. For administrative purposes, you can use a Mac filter because it will restrict the connected users to specified networks.

Some Cons of Using a Mac Filter

Mac filtering has some advantages, as we have seen in the post, but it has some disadvantages that you should know about. It takes a lot of time to add the addresses to the wireless network especially when there are a lot of devices to be connected. Finding a physical address of every device one by one and adding it to the router is tedious.

The biggest myth about wireless Mac filtering is that it protects you from hackers. It is not a great option to have when you are looking to secure your network against hackers. Hackers can easily break the filter to get access to your wireless network.

Going for a Mac filter means you are not using a WPA2 encrypted password which is known to be an effective measure for Wi-Fi security. The hackers can easily get access without the WPA2 encryption.

If you purchase a new device like a PC or a laptop, you have to modify the list of allowed devices. The PC uses two Mac addresses, one for a wired adapter connected via Ethernet cables, and the other address is for a wireless adapter, again tedious and time-consuming.

To Wrap Things Up

MAC address filtering is easy to set up and is a useful network controlling tool, and yet it does not guarantee your network security like WPA2-AES and WPA2-TKIP encryption. It can be used as an extra layer of protection to avoid unwanted devices, but it is a poor security measure against hackers and cybercriminals.

You can make a list of addresses and add them to your wireless Mac filter, but if a hacker attacks the network, he could cause a lot of damage to all connected devices. That is why cybersecurity experts do not recommend Mac address filtering as a security measure for your Wi-Fi network.

About author

A finance major with a passion for all things tech, Uneeb loves to write about everything from hardware to games (his favorite genre being FPS). When not writing, he can be seen in his natural habitat reading, studying investments, or watching Formula 1.
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