The organization I work for has site wide unsecured wifi, however to get access to it you have to supply your devices mac address to IT. Is this a secure method to prevent people from being able to packet sniff (or similar)? It is my understanding that it is not but IT are confident it is.

To give a bit of context to the sort of security needed, the organization I work for is large and very prominent. In addition the Wi-Fi is not just for work, as many employees live on site and use it, as well as there being multiple hotels on site that use it.

  • Possible duplicate of Does MAC filtering in WLAN protect against MAC spoofing? – Xander Jul 14 '17 at 16:21
  • @Xander I don't see how that could be a duplicate. That asks if a particular method can be used to use the Wi-Fi without permission. It doesn't ask if someone could get information from people using the Wi-Fi like you can with packet sniffing. It's certainly a similar question, but it is not a duplicate. – anonymous Jul 14 '17 at 16:25
  • It does appear to be a duplicate. You're describing MAC filtering and asking if it is secure. The answer to the existing question explains why it is not. – Xander Jul 14 '17 at 16:29
  • OP is asking primarily about sniffing, but the other question is regarding spoofing. They're related, but different. – Timothy Smith Jul 14 '17 at 18:37

By unsecured WiFi, I'm guessing you mean 'open' and unencrypted. Packets on an open WiFi connection (one that is not protected by, say, WPA2) are susceptible to sniffing. All information is being transmitted in plaintext format. An exception is if you are visiting an HTTPS link and have end-to-end encryption on that website. All other HTTP traffic on an open WiFi is susceptible to sniffing.

Some organizations use MAC address to register a device before allowing it access to the Internet. In the event of a policy violation, they can look up the MAC address attached to the IP at the time and identify the machine -- and possibly the user. However, this is not an effective procedure since MAC addresses can be spoofed using tools like macchanger. Using such tools it is easy for even script kiddies to spoof a MAC address. Quite easy to do on a Linux machine. MAC addresses could be spoofed to any address such as 00:00:00:00:00:00 or a valid MAC address of another user.

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    Additionally, the permitted mac addresses can be determined by monitoring the unencrypted wifi traffic. – AJ Henderson Jul 14 '17 at 17:33

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