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How to Create a Virtual network interface in Mac OS X

Virt Network

Create a new interface in the networking panel, based on an existing interface, but it will not act as a real fully functional interface (if the original interface is inactive, then the derived one is also inactive).

This can be achieved using a Tun/Tap device as suggested by psv141, and manipulating the /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/preferences.plist file to add a NetworkService based on either a tun or tap interface. Mac OS X will not allow the creation of a NetworkService based on a virtual network interface, but one can directly manipulate the preferences.plist file to add the NetworkService by hand. Basically you would open the preferences.plist file in Xcode (or edit the XML directly, but Xcode is likely to be more fool-proof), and copy the configuration from an existing Ethernet interface. The place to create the new NetworkService is under “NetworkServices”, and if your Mac has an Ethernet device the NetworkService profile will also be under this property entry. The Ethernet entry can be copied pretty much verbatim, the only fields you would actually be changing are:

IPv4 configuration and set the interface to your tun or tap device (i.e. tun0 or tap0).
DNS server if needed.
Then you would also manipulate the particular Location you want this NetworkService for (remember Mac OS X can configure all network interfaces dependent on your “Location”). The default location UUID can be obtained in the root of the PropertyList as the key “CurrentSet”. After figuring out which location (or set) you want, expand the Set property, and add entries under Global/IPv4/ServiceOrder with the UUID of the new NetworkService. Also under the Set property you need to expand the Service property and add the UUID here as a dictionary with one String entry with key __LINK__ and value as the UUID (use the other interfaces as an example).

After you have modified your preferences.plist file, just reboot, and the NetworkService will be available under SystemPreferences->Network. Note that we have mimicked an Ethernet device so Mac OS X layer of networking will note that “a cable is unplugged” and will not let you activate the interface through the GUI. However, since the underlying device is a tun/tap device and it has an IP address, the interface will become active and the proper routing will be added at the BSD level.

As a reference this is used to do special routing magic.

In case you got this far and are having trouble, you have to create the tun/tap device by opening one of the devices under /dev/. You can use any program to do this, but I’m a fan of good-old-fashioned C myself:

int main()
int fd = open("/dev/tun0", O_RDONLY);
if (fd < 0)
printf("Failed to open tun/tap device. Are you root? Are the drivers installed?n");
return -1;
while (1)
return 0;

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