I have an XP laptop with Wi-Fi issues - it connects / disconnects intermittently. Anyway, I bought a USB Wi-Fi that works well.

My security question are:

  1. Is there a way to completely disable the built-in laptop's Wi-Fi adapter? I have disable Wireless Network Connection from Network Connections. I do not see the Wi-Fi adapter's connection, when I do ipconfig /all; However, I'm concerned people with hacking tools are still somehow able to see and use that route into my computer.

  2. When I'm not online through the USB Wi-Fi, I can still see my Ethernet adapter's Physical Address / MAC address when I do ipconfig /all. Should I be concerned? How do I guard this piece of information?

  • If you really want to disable it to be sure it can't be used and you don't want it there I would pop open the laptop and disconnect the wifi chip. That's really the only way to be 100% sure. Jul 26, 2013 at 12:41

1 Answer 1


The MAC address is specific to a network interface (e.g. your WiFi adapter) and is used for local routing of packets. Every packet sent by a given interface will bear that address, so it cannot be assumed to be secret. On the other hand, knowing your MAC address does not give a lot of power to an attacker -- at best, that attacker could mimic your MAC address so as to fool stupid WiFi access points configured to allow only computers with specific MAC addresses to connect.

So there is no need to be concerned over revealing your MAC address, but, also, your MAC address is not revealed until you actually emit packets.

Shutting down your built-in WiFi, when you don't use it, is a good idea; otherwise, an attacker could pose as an open access port and induce your laptop to connect through it. As a general rule, the Internet is a wild place and you must assume that every single machine out there is hostile -- however, there is no point in actively helping attackers to mount easy Man-in-the-Middle attacks. Most laptops have a "kill WiFi" button (so that the machine may be safely used in airplanes); this might work for you. Alternatively, try removing the driver for your WiFi adapter (that's brutal but it should work).

  • As a side-question, then: When your laptop has open wifi but has never been set to remember/autoconnect any open access points, is there any settingt on a MitM access point that will induce my laptop to connect? I'd guess "no" but I'm not fond of guesswork when it comes to security.
    – shieldfoss
    Jul 18, 2013 at 7:29
  • What your laptop would do in this situation really depends on what the OS vendor engineers thought "best" and that's a rather risky bet: OS vendors have a tendency to add without warning some new, "advanced", "helpful" behaviours -- especially with Windows because the Windows you get with a new laptop is not straight from Microsoft: it was also tinkered with by the laptop vendor, and these are prone to include tons of "extra software" (usually bringing the machine down to a painful crawl). Jul 18, 2013 at 12:13

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