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For instance if someone had my MAC address would they have my name and address location or would they just have the name of my device. Also could they track me down by having the MAC address or would they need to go to court and sobpeana this information.

marked as duplicate by Steffen Ullrich, schroeder May 18 at 15:00

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  • Note that generally a MAC address is only visible to the "local" network. If you have a router, the MAC address for your computer isn't visible outside of the router. The MAC address of the router is visible to only a subnet of your ISP, and (almost certainly) not to the entire internet. This goes out the window if you have some application that's reading and reporting the MAC on your own computer, though. – Clockwork-Muse May 17 at 23:53
  • To give context, I'm not too familiar with computers an IT terminology, so please excuse my mistakes. I work in a building where they provide guest Wi-Fi. Before you log in, you have to sign their terms and conditions (don't do illegal stuff, etc.). I did go on a "bad site" on my cell phone and saw that it was blocked. Can this be traced back to me? I've done my research and read into MAC addresses linked to cell phone hardware. Does that mean an IT administrator would be able to trace it back to me personally or would they just see someone tried to access a site in general – miche May 18 at 0:47
  • They may or may not be logging the MAC addresses (since the building is probably larger than the coverage from one wireless router, they'd have to check for that). If you have a login assigned to you, though, they can just use that to find you. That's assuming they even care. – Clockwork-Muse May 18 at 16:19
  • No I have a log in assigned to me it's just guest wifi and agree and sign in no log in necessary....my question now would be if they have my mac adress or ip address would they be able to know who I was or would they have to to through a more rigorous process like getting police involved sobpean and court order to actually track me or is my mac adress and ip adress enough to say hey he did it – miche May 18 at 17:01
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For legitimate devices the MAC address is directly tied to the hardware and often burned into "rom" on the network card itself (but sometimes it's not actually read only). To prevent collisions each vendor has a set of prefixes they're allowed to use, and it's up to them how they use them and how they uniquely generate the rest of the MAC

Therefore you can reliably get

  • The hardware vendor from the prefix
  • Often the approximate generation of the device based on which prefix is used
  • Sometimes the exact model of network card used since most vendors use a predictable process to generate part of the address
  • Very rarely some other piece of information the vendor used to generate it when the card was made which usually isn't very useful

You can get the vendor from Wireshark using their tool

But a hacker can, through a variety of ways, falsify a mac address to pretend to be pretty much anything. Even mimicking another device on the network (though if they do this without knocking the other device out you end up with each device receiving only some of the packets which is both useless to the hacker and alerts the admins that something's probably wrong)

As for tracking, the MAC can reliably (though not uncontestably) tie traffic to a single "machine". This information is overwritten each time traffic passes through a "layer 3" device (like your router). Normally this means that at most your router's mac address could be seen by another machine (and sometimes not even then, depending how the ISPs route their traffic).

Therefore the 3 biggest things to keep in mind if someone hostile got your mac address are

  • If it's for your router and the hostile party is a hacker it could leak the approximate model and generation which is the first step to deciding which vulnerabilities to try and attack
  • If it's for your router and the hostile party is a website or service, it might be able to log that and track sessions over time across multiple IP addresses (if your IP changes like how DSL does)
  • If it's for your local computer or device (say from a software or browser leak), It can be used to uniquely track your computer across multiple sessions regardless of other anonymizing techniques, but it doesn't track YOU as a person. Also you can rotate your MAC using software if you're concerned about this, but that only helps if you remember to do so

Also there's other information that can track you besides just your mac address. For an interesting demonstration check out DoILeak.com

Edit: Floating some links that fell below the fold for people who might be interested in other tracking techniques

  • To give context, I'm not too familiar with computers an IT terminology, so please excuse my mistakes. I work in a building where they provide guest Wi-Fi. Before you log in, you have to sign their terms and conditions (don't do illegal stuff, etc.). I did go on a "bad site" on my cell phone and saw that it was blocked. Can this be traced back to me? I've done my research and read into MAC addresses linked to cell phone hardware. Does that mean an IT administrator would be able to trace it back to me personally or would they just see someone tried to access a site – miche May 17 at 23:52
  • That information would be accessible, but only if it's actually tracked. Specifically the administrator could have set it up so your mac address (and other information given by your device and browser) is saved when you agree, and also when a block occurs so they can tie them together. – Chris Rudd May 17 at 23:55
  • Thanks alot man I appreciate the help and being so fast to respond...do you think they would be able to track me and actually come up to me and say hey we know it was you or would they need to get a court order for that – miche May 18 at 0:14
  • @miche Yes, they could track you but not due to your MAC address, but simply because you are using their network. You should use a VPN if you don't want the admin of the router you use or your ISP to be able to spy on what sites you visit. – forest May 18 at 0:56
  • Thanks I will look into VPN now to be safe....do you mind if I ask by what means they can track me if it's not by my mac adress how exactly are they tracking me is it my ip adress and what information can they really get on me would they be able to get my name and stuff like my cell phone service my name adress etc? Like what information would they be able to get that tracks me – miche May 18 at 0:59

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