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Are there any NICs designed specifically for anonymity that do not come with a MAC address (ie you have to set it manually) or choose one randomly every time they are turned on?

Obviously this wouldn't help you be anonymous if your traffic goes through your modem anyways, but this could help you remain anonymous when connecting to the internet at a coffee shop.

There are various ways to change your mac address with different NICs, but I would trust hardware more if it was specifically designed for anonymity. Also, having protection always enabled at the hardware level would prevent software misconfigurations/bugs from being an issue.

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    This is usually done through software MAC address spoofing instead of hardware. Windows 10 even has a built-in MAC address randomization feature for some network cards. There are also programs that let you do it manually. – tlng05 Dec 12 '15 at 15:53
  • Linux using systemd-networkd can also randomize MAC addresses on boot. – André Borie Dec 12 '15 at 17:02
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The MAC address of the network card can only be seen inside the local network. I think you cannot be really anonymous inside a local network anyway. But apart from that most network cards can be set to a different MAC address using software.

There are various ways to change your mac address with different NICs, but I would trust hardware more if it was specifically designed for anonymity.

The hardware has no idea when it should change the Mac address, so this has to be controlled by software anyway. Apart from that "hardware controlled" means actually controlled by firmware on the NIC, so in reality this is software again.

  • Question updated to show use case (coffee shop). – Kevin Wheeler Dec 12 '15 at 15:51
  • "'hardware controlled' means actually controlled by firmware on the NIC, so in reality this is software again." True, but I would trust the firmware on a device that is designed specifically for this purpose more than software at higher levels that is part of the operating system. OS software wouldn't be designed with only one focus like the firmware would be. Also to apply least privilege: the NIC has full control and can do whatever it wants anyways, so we might as well just cut the OS out of the equation. This way the OS gets no privileges. – Kevin Wheeler Dec 12 '15 at 16:17
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    "The hardware has no idea when it should change the Mac address, so this has to be controlled by software anyway." If the hardware chooses the mac address randomly each time it is powered on, then this wouldn't have to be controlled by (non firmware level) software. – Kevin Wheeler Dec 12 '15 at 16:18
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    @KevinWheeler: I think this question is only relevant in the context of mobile devices but there the NIC is usually integrated. I also think that the firmware for these devices gets mostly initialized by the device driver from the OS, which means that there is not much difference in security context between NIC firmware and OS driver. Also, you often travel between networks without switching the device (mobile phone) off, so a new MAC only when powered on would not be sufficient. – Steffen Ullrich Dec 12 '15 at 16:50

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