Netgear warns users that iOS 14's MAC address randomization could cause 'Unknown Devices' to appear on their networks

Netgear Orbi Rbk50v Voice Wifi System on a table top
Netgear Orbi Rbk50v Voice Wifi System on a table top (Image credit: Netgear)

What you need to know

  • Netgear has emailed users of its Circle feature that they could see "Unknown Devices" appear on their network.
  • The cause is said to be Apple's iOS 14 MAC address randomization.

Netgear has emailed users to warn them that an iOS security feature could be causing them to see "Unknown Devices" appearing on their network. The networking outfit says that the issue could impact users of its Circle parental control (opens in new tab) feature.

In an email I received today, Netgear says that people might be "seeing a large number of "Unknown Devices" appearing in your Circle device list" and that it "might be caused by a default feature included on devices using iOS 14."

That feature? iOS 14's MAC address randomization, a feature that prevents WiFi networks from tracking users based on their address. Traditionally, unique MAC addresses are assigned to individual devices during manufacture, but iOS 14 changes that.

Netgear points out at iOS 14 and Android 10 "enable this default feature to use randomized media access control (MAC) addresses when a device connects to a network to protect users from being tracked while on public hotspots." But that it seems, is confusing Circle.

Since Circle uses MAC addresses to track devices, the feature also leads to new "Unknown devices" appearing in your Circle device list. So to ensure you can still manage your kids' iOS 14 or Android 10 devices through the app, please follow these steps to disable the Random MAC / Private MAC Feature for your family's home WiFi Network only.

So, there you go. If Circle has been warning you about a number of unknown devices popping up on your network, now you know what's up. And how to fix it, more importantly.

Oliver Haslam
Contributor

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.