The challenge of correctly identifying devices in a network realm may sound obscure to most of us, but it's a pressing concern for those involved in network administration and cybersecurity. Patent number US11736353B2, recently granted to F-Secure, seeks to address this problem.
Imagine you're a librarian. Each book has a unique number. But what if, suddenly, the numbers started to change, or they were used by multiple books? You'd have a real problem keeping track of what's what. This is quite similar to what has been occurring in computer networks where devices have been identified using a unique identifier known as the MAC address. Current operating systems like Android, Linux, iOS, and Windows now tend to randomize these addresses to prevent misuse by third parties. While this enhances security, it creates a significant headache for network administrators who need to keep track of devices software is running on.
Moreover, many devices, like your home computer or laptop, might connect to the network using different methods - Wi-Fi, Ethernet, for example. This leads to the same device appearing as several different ones, adding another layer to the confusion.
The abovementioned patent throws a technological lifeline to network administrators. It uses a method known as 'network stack fingerprinting.' This technique allows it to recognize devices on a network, despite the randomization of MAC addresses or multiple network interfaces. It gathers data - or 'clues' - from each device it connects to the network, forming a unique fingerprint. It checks these fingerprints against those it has already stored and can identify whether the device connecting is new or if it's one it has 'met' before, regardless of how it is connecting.
What does it mean for all of us who aren't network administrators? Consider the 'smart' devices you have at home - your phone, tablet, laptop, and maybe even your refrigerator or TV. Each time any of these wants to connect to your Wi-Fi, they'll appear to your router as a separate device. This patent allows your router to recognize your phone, whether it is connecting through Wi-Fi, Ethernet, or even if it's using a guest network. This means better security for your network and a smoother online experience for you.
How would this affect offices and businesses? An administrator could track who is using the company's network and when, which could help determine what resources are needed and where. It means enhanced security since rogue or unexpected devices are quickly highlighted.
Remember, this patent does not guarantee that the technology will arrive in the market soon. Still, it promises a giant leap in network identification and security once it comes into play.
P.S. This article discusses a patented invention that's yet to be commercialized. There is no assurance that the technique in this patent will hit the market soon.