5

I recently got a call from our network admin asking that I stop the app updates on my iPhone to open up bandwidth. It is my personal phone. My question is 2 part:

  1. Out of all of the personal devices in the office, how was the admin able to identify the device as mine.
  2. What can I change on my phone so it does not personally identify me?
  • How many people in your office have an iPhone? – Gilles Jul 8 '14 at 11:23
  • 5
    Good thing he called you, an email might have pushed the network past the point of no return! – David Houde Jul 8 '14 at 12:55
  • 13
    You need to remember that while it may be "my personal phone" it is your COMPANY'S network. You are using their bandwidth. – k1DBLITZ Jul 8 '14 at 13:09
  • How do you authenticate to the WiFi? – mat Sep 27 '16 at 9:52
12

There's any number of ways that your company's network administrator may have identified you. The principal thing you need to realize is that, while you may be using your own device, you are on your company's network. That grants the company a lot of visibility to the traffic your device generates, should they choose (as it appears they have) to examine it. It also means that you are responsible for complying with your company's policies regarding efficient and appropriate use of their resources (e.g. bandwidth).

The easiest way they could have identified you is by your device's hostname. If it's called "Chuck's iPhone", and you're the only "Chuck" in the office, it's not a huge leap to figure out whose device it is. Changing your hostname is perhaps the simplest thing you can do to obfuscate your identity.

Another way to identify the device is by registration. Your company may have forced you to register via a web portal when you joined the WiFi network. At that time, your iPhone's MAC address could have been logged. Though it's possible to change a device's MAC address, it's rarely done. So it's still a fairly reliable identifier, if you have data to associate it to a person. I'm not aware of any built-in mechanisms to change the iPhone's MAC address, but I've heard there's supposed to be a feature coming in newer iOS versions.

If your phone is making any connections to other corporate systems (e.g. e-mail) while you're on their WiFi, your connections to those systems will be logged. That will associate your company username, which is associated with your identity, to your iPhone's current IP address. The first step to avoid this is to stop using company applications on your phone when you're on the company's WiFi network. (Also make sure that you don't have any apps installed or configured in such a way that they might do so in the background.) The next step, after you've done that, is to get a new IP address. Since you don't know how the DHCP server is configured, the best way to do this would be to disconnect from WiFi, delete the WiFi profile, change your MAC address (if possible), rebuild the WiFi profile, and reconnect. Then, check to make sure that you got assigned a different IP.

The last way they could identify you, which is generally the most difficult to mitigate (especially on a non-jailbroken iPhone), is by direct analysis of your network traffic. Smartphone applications send a lot of data in the clear, both when you're actively using them and when they're running in the background. This data can contain any number of things that might be used to associate the phone to you, personally. It could have your name, user account IDs for online services (which may be based on your name), names of your friends/family, pictures of yourself or friends/family, phone numbers, addresses, or various other flavors of PII. Unless you've personally vetted how every application on your iPhone handles your data, there's no way to know for sure what information might be readily available to the administrators of any network your iPhone connects to. The only way to avoid this is to route all of your iPhone's traffic through a secured VPN gateway. These usually are paid services, and may or may not support your device.

In the end, we come back to what I said in the first paragraph. The company's network is not yours to use however you choose. Especially now that you've been warned, any attempts you make to circumvent their management systems will only further strengthen a disciplinary case against you. Also, just because you might be able to make yourself unidentifiable via network traffic from the data-link layer or above, there are no measures you can take to prevent a network administrator from identifying you at the physical level. With enough access points acting as sensors, network administrators can isolate your device's location to within several meters and follow it as it moves around. This can be used to build an activity profile which could be roughly correlated against your personal work and meetings schedule. To further narrow it down, a tablet or other man-portable device can be used to find your device's location within a few feet.

In short, the best way to keep your personal device from being identified on the company's network is to not use it on the company's network. Keep your personal devices and Internet activities off of corporate hardware, and your network administrators won't care what you do with them.

10

iPhones default to "Chuck's iPhone" as their network name. You change that by changing your device's name.

Same with any iOS device.

  • 2
    To clarify: the network hostname is created based on the name the device is given in iTunes (non-exclusively - if the device is jailbroken, it can be changed from the command line). This is generally recorded by routers to put a human-readable name to an IP address, just as it does with pretty much any other device on the network. – esqew Jul 8 '14 at 14:25
  • @schroeder, Without resorting to jailbreaking, Is there any way to change the name "X's iPhone"? – Pacerier May 25 '15 at 7:26
  • Look in the general settings – schroeder May 25 '15 at 7:42
8

How to get noticed in a professional network

Your network admin is able to see that "chuck" is connecting to an internal E-mail server from the Mac address "00:05:02:11:22:33" and that this iPhone address is connected through the access point on first floor of the library. This is just a practical example. There are many other ways.

Notwithstanding the fact that anonymous "chuck" named his iPhone "Alice's iPhone" your network admin is able to identify you and your physical location within less than 25 m.

How to stay unnoticed in a professional network

The fact that you change your iPhone name to continue overloading your company network will only change a point: you willingly crossed the line. This gives many rights to your network admin. Most notably the right to investigate a problem as far as the solution requires it. You will have to play hard to make a friend of your network admin :).

If you have any good reason not to get identified within a network seriously managed, your only path is to turn off any form of wireless connection (Wi-Fi, bluetooth) toward the LAN (or neighbouring wireless sniffers).

  • Note: With the proper equipment, the network admin can find your location within a few feet (much less than 25m) if they're so inclined. However, that's more likely to result in a face-to-face discussion (since they're already there, tracking down your device) than an e-mail. – Iszi Jul 8 '14 at 13:37
  • Where is the MAC/email account pairing made? I'm really not sure about this answer being accurate. – schroeder Jul 10 '14 at 21:27
  • 2
    @MAC@IP: router & DHCP server. @IPlogin: E-mail server log. About a one liner of grep & sed. – dan Jul 10 '14 at 21:33
  • 3
    "How to stay unnoticed in a professional network" really needs just three words: "Stay off it." Note that this is an all-inclusive statement, covering wireless, wired, or any other connection. If you're on a managed network, and doing things the network admins don't like, they can find you. This is especially applicable if "things you're doing that the network admins don't like" includes "hogging all the bandwidth". – Iszi Jul 10 '14 at 22:00
  • 1
    → Iszi: Pacerier isn't fully wrong. In a real case, I failed to locate correctly and quickly enough the impolite iPhone owner so as to explain him the origin of our network misbehaviour. He was in the middle of a conference room crowded with 400 participants. I was forced to enter a specific DNS & DHCP entry just for him: @MAC → idiot-7.my-domain, idiot-7.my-domain → 127.0.0.1, and had to explicitly force a disconnect from the AP. Then I had to send a polite E-mail to him and his boss about legitimate use of our network ressources. – dan May 26 '15 at 13:00
-2

Use their network, But on a proxy I guess...That is one way to hide yourself from those network admins.

But change your device name & use a proxy that hides everything, and then they will never find you!

  • 2
    Where is this proxy placed? I'm not sure this will work. – schroeder Jan 4 '16 at 4:25
  • How does the proxy help? If the iPhone's MAC address has been logged, I don't think this is enough. – Neil Smithline Jan 4 '16 at 4:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.