Operating systems other than Chrome OS have let you randomize or hide your MAC address (the device’s unique hardware identifier) for decades, but now that Google is putting some polish on its own operating system, it looks like the same feature may be inbound for it as well.
Discovered by Kevin Tofel of About Chromebooks, a new Chrome OS developer flag called “MAC address randomization” will let you do just that. At the time he wrote up his findings, the flag was not yet available, but now, it’s appearing on Chrome OS Canary 99 for me.
MAC address randomization
Randomize MAC address when connecting to unmanaged (non-enterprise) WiFi networks. – Chrome OS#wifi-connect-mac-address-randomization
For those who may not be familiar with a “MAC address”, here’s a basic explanation. A MAC address is used by devices while they connect to Wi-Fi networks or access points. Unfortunately, they are unencrypted as they’re transmitted and as the device handshakes with the network, so they can be intercepted during that process.
If this occurs, the malicious party could track your location! Having a feature onboard and baked into the OS means that the MAC address is randomized in-transit so even though it’s not encrypted, it makes it much harder for a third party to decipher the order of the numbers and letters.
For now, the feature is still not implemented, even with the flag toggled, but the fact that it’s finally available means that the company is moving forward with testing and building it. As with all flags though, there is no guarantee of a feature coming to the masses, but most of the time, that does end up happening.
I’d be interested to know if anyone here would like such a feature if it does come to fruition or if you don’t really pay much attention to such things. Device security is being taken more seriously now that Chrome OS is maturing, and we can even see this with the recently discovered Snopping detection feature that’s being worked on. Let me know in the comments if you’ll be trying these things out!