NetworkToolbox and iOS 11

Last time, when iOS 10.2 has been introduced, the ability for NetworkToolbox to show MAC Addresses was no longer available as Apple has removed access to MAC Addresses due to security concerns and to increase our privacy. (see MAC Addresses are back)

It was a real challenge to find a workaround to be able to show the MAC Address again. My solution still works under iOS 10.3.3.

Now, with iOS 11 knocking at the door, you may wonder if it will still work. The answer is no. Unfortunately. Apple made my workaround unusable again in iOS 11.

I already investigated into this again for several days (and nights) but it seems, this time, Apple did a great job. They even fixed some additional (severe) security issues I found last time while I was looking for an alternative to get the MAC Address.

However, the consequence of this on iOS 11 is now, not only the lack of the ability to show the MAC address. The main disadvantage is, that I no longer can display the device Vendor, which is derived from the MAC Address using the internal MAC Database. This is and was a very valuable information while scanning a local network as it often helps to identify a device. Unfortunately, this is gone now.

I spoke to two Apple employees. Both told me, that Apple wants to protect users against Developers who misuse the MAC Address to track user activities and they said that this has precedence over the missing feature for my App.

I told them that this is a very good approach with good intentions but even without a MAC Address there are a couple of (even easier) ways to track user activities and, depending on the setup, a MAC Address can even be derived from IPv6 Address and that there isn’t much Apple can do against it.

I also recommended to add a security setting which could be used to allow/disable MAC Address access similar to camera or microphone access. So users can decide which App should be allowed to have access to the MAC Address.

One of these Apple employees told me that he is using my App quite often and found my statements and suggestions quite reasonable.

I am not sure (I even doubt) that my conversation with Apple will change the situation but maybe if more people (like you) would let Apple know, maybe it will.

Nevertheless, here are the plans for my next steps:

  • Shortly after iOS 11 has been released, I will create another Update of NetworkToolbox

(Shortly ‘after’ because I want to create an update based on and for the final iOS 11 version which makes sense as the App already runs just fine on iOS 11 (except for the MAC Address) and thus, wouldn’t require an immediate update)

  • I will give the MAC Address issue another (short!) try but will not waste too much time. Instead, I will polish the Network Scanning tool that it will provide as much usability as possible even without a MAC Address
  • Finally and in addition, that next update will include things, I already worked on (most of them have already been finished).

 

Thanks for your suggestions, which helped to make this App even better.

Stay tuned,

Regards,

Marcus