MAC vs IP Address

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I figured I’d give you all a break from malware and talk about something different.  In that spirit, I’m doing a little post about IP addresses and MAC addresses.  I’m going explain the difference between MAC and IP addresses by starting with question: “What is an IP address?”

IP address stands for Internet Protocol address, while MAC address stands for Media Access Control address.  That probably means nothing for those that are not tech-savvy, and trying to explain them by discussing things like network identification will just be confusing.  Instead, I am going to explain them by comparing them to cars.

IP Address Windows Configuration
IP Address Windows Configuration

A MAC address is the equivalent to your car’s VIN number because it is assigned to your computer upon creation and never changes.  It doesn’t matter who owns the car/computer, or what location the car/computer is in: the car’s VIN is always the same, and the computer’s MAC address is always the same.  However, like a car’s VIN number, a computer’s MAC address can be a bit inconvenient for everyday use. That’s where IP addresses comes in.

If the MAC address is the VIN, then the IP address is the license plate.  A car is not “born” with a license plate, and a computer is not “born” with an IP address; rather, they are given them later in life.  And similar to a license plate, an IP address is unique but flexible in that it can be changed in the right conditions. Of course, that’s a simplified explanation of things; there is a lot more to IP addresses than that.

Hopefully this post helped you to start understanding the difference between MAC addresses and IP addresses.  In future entries I will dive further into IP addresses, so keep an eye out for that!

Are you interested in learning all about Viruses & Malware?  Read all about it on our Malware 101 post…

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