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Media access control

Media access control

(also MAC, medium access control)

Media access control definition

Media access control (MAC) is the network protocol that identifies devices in wired and wireless networks. Each network interface card (NIC) and wireless network interface controller (WNIC) has a unique MAC address, which is a 48-bit hexadecimal number. The first 24 bits identify the manufacturer, while the second part refers to the device. The MAC protocol provides a helpful mechanism for network administrators to identify network devices, enforce access controls, and enhance network security. However, it might not be suitable for all network configurations or security requirements, such as large or complex networks that require more flexible or scalable solutions.

See also: access control entry, network security protocols

Media access control (MAC) advantages

  • Unique identification. It enables network administrators to manage and control access to the network based on device identity.
  • Resource efficiency. The MAC protocol ensures a single device transmits data on the channel at any time. This way, it prevents collisions and ensures efficient bandwidth usage.
  • Better network security. Organizations can improve their network security and prevent unauthorized access within their systems by configuring MAC address filtering.
  • Compatibility. Both wired and wireless networks use the MAC protocol, which is compatible with various devices and network topologies.

Media access control (MAC) drawbacks

  • Spoofing. Cyber parties can spoof or forge MAC addresses and obtain unauthorized network access.
  • Limited scalability. The MAC protocol is unsuitable for large networks with many devices, which can cause network congestion and harm performance.
  • Limited flexibility. It may not be suitable for all network configurations or security requirements, such as virtualized environments, wireless networks, or multitenant environments.
  • Complexity. Users, especially beginners, might find the MAC protocol challenging to configure and manage, primarily in large networks with complex security requirements.

Further reading

Ultimate digital security