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What Is a Service Set Identifier (SSID)?

All wireless networks have their own network names

An SSID (Service Set Identifier) ​​is the primary name associated with an 802.11 wireless local area network (WLAN), including home networks and public access points. Client devices use this name to identify and join wireless networks. In simple terms, it is the name of your Wi-Fi network.

What does a network SSID look like

The SSID is a case-sensitive text string of letters and numbers up to 32 characters long. Within these rules, the SSID can say anything.

When you connect to a wireless network, you’ll see your network and others that are in range and have a different name. All the names you see are the SSIDs of these networks.

SSID Setup on Wireless Router

Router manufacturers specify a default SSID for the Wi-Fi unit, such as Linksys, xfinitywifi, NETGEAR, dlink, or default. However, not all wireless networks have a default name because the SSID can be changed.

In home Wi-Fi networks, a broadband router or broadband modem stores the SSID, but administrators can change it. Routers broadcast this name to help wireless clients find the network.

How do devices use SSIDs?

Wireless devices such as phones and laptops scan the local area for networks that broadcast their SSID and present a list of names. The user can initiate a new network connection by selecting a name from the list.

In addition to obtaining the network name, a Wi-Fi scan also determines whether wireless security options are enabled on each network. In most cases, the device identifies a secure network with a padlock icon next to the SSID.

WiFi connection settings with SSID

Most wireless devices monitor the networks a user joins and their connection preferences. Specifically, users can configure a device to automatically join networks with specific SSIDs by saving this setting in their profile.

In other words, after connecting, the device often asks if you want to save the network or reconnect automatically in the future. You can also manually configure the connection without having access to the network (you can connect to the network remotely, so the device knows how to log in when in range).

Because most wireless routers require clients to know two passwords, they offer the option to disable SSID broadcasting as a way to increase the security of the Wi-Fi network: the SSID and the network password. However, the effectiveness of this technique is limited, as it is easy to detect the SSID from the header of data packets passing through the router.

Connecting to networks with SSID broadcast disabled requires the user to manually create a profile with name and other connection parameters.

Problems with SSIDs

Consider these implications for how wireless network names work:

  • If a network does not have wireless security options enabled, anyone can connect to it just knowing the SSID.
  • Using a default SSID increases the likelihood that another nearby network will have the same name, confusing wireless clients. When a Wi-Fi device discovers two networks with the same name, it may automatically connect to the one with a stronger radio signal, which may be an undesirable choice. In the worst case, a person could be disconnected from their home network and reconnected to a neighbor’s network with no login protection enabled.
  • The SSID chosen for a home network should contain general information only. Some names (like HackMeIfYouCan) needlessly lure thieves into attacking certain homes and networks at the expense of others.
  • An SSID may contain offensive language or encoded messages that are visible to all.

common questions

  • How can I find my SSID? Open the list of Wi-Fi networks on your device to see the SSID you are connected to. It will have an icon such as a checkmark or Wi-Fi symbol, or connected.
  • How do I hide the Wi-Fi SSID? In your router settings, you can disable SSID broadcasting to hide your Wi-Fi network. Different manufacturers have different processes; You may need to contact the router manufacturer for details on how to hide the SSID. For example, you can visit the Linksys website for instructions on a Linksys router or the NETGEAR page for a NETGEAR router.
  • How do I change my SSID name and password? To change the SSID name and password on a router, log in to the router’s management console via a web browser. Then find the Wi-Fi network setup page to edit the name and password.

See more

What Is a Service Set Identifier (SSID)?

All wireless networks have their own network name

An SSID (service set identifier) is the primary name associated with an 802.11 wireless local area network (WLAN), including home networks and public hotspots. Client devices use this name to identify and join wireless networks. In simple terms, it’s the name of your Wi-Fi network.

What a Network SSID Looks Like

The SSID is a case-sensitive text string that is as long as 32 characters consisting of letters and numbers. Within those rules, the SSID can say anything.

When you connect to a wireless network, you see your network and others within your range that are called something different. All of the names you see are the SSIDs for those networks.

Router manufacturers set a default SSID for the Wi-Fi unit, such as Linksys, xfinitywifi, NETGEAR, dlink, or default. However, since the SSID can be changed, not all wireless networks have a standard name.

On home Wi-Fi networks, a broadband router or broadband modem stores the SSID, but administrators can change it. Routers broadcast this name to help wireless clients find the network.

How Devices Use SSIDs

Wireless devices like phones and laptops scan the local area for networks that broadcast their SSIDs and present a list of names. A user can initiate a new network connection by picking a name from the list.

In addition to obtaining the network name, a Wi-Fi scan also determines whether each network has wireless security options enabled. In most cases, the device identifies a secured network with a lock symbol next to the SSID.

Most wireless devices keep track of the networks a user joins as well as the connection preferences. In particular, users can set up a device to automatically join networks having certain SSIDs by saving that setting in their profiles.

In other words, once connected, the device usually asks if you want to save the network or reconnect automatically in the future. Also, you can set up the connection manually without having access to the network (you can connect to the network from afar so that when in range, the device knows how to log in).

Most wireless routers offer the option to disable SSID broadcasting as a means to improve Wi-Fi network security since it requires the clients to know two passwords: the SSID and the network password. However, the effectiveness of this technique is limited since it’s easy to sniff out the SSID from the header of data packets flowing through the router.

Connecting to networks with SSID broadcast disabled requires the user to manually create a profile with the name and other connection parameters.

Issues With SSIDs

Consider these ramifications of how wireless network names work:

If a network does not have wireless security options enabled, anyone can connect to it by knowing only the SSID.
Using a default SSID increases the likelihood that another nearby network will have the same name, confusing wireless clients. When a Wi-Fi device discovers two networks with the same name, it may auto-connect to the one that has a stronger radio signal, which might be the unwanted choice. In the worst case, a person might get dropped from their home network and reconnected to a neighbor’s network that doesn’t have login protection enabled.
The SSID chosen for a home network should contain only generic information. Some names (like HackMeIfYouCan) unnecessarily entice thieves to target certain homes and networks over others.
An SSID can contain publicly-visible offensive language or coded messages.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I find my SSID? Open the list of Wi-Fi networks on your device to see the SSID you are connected to. It will either have an icon, such as a check mark or Wi-Fi symbol, or it will be Connected.
How do I hide the Wi-Fi SSID? In your router’s settings, you can disable SSID broadcasting to hide your Wi-Fi network. Different manufacturers have different processes; you might need to check with your router manufacturer for detailed information about hiding the SSID. For example, you can go to the Linksys website for instructions pertaining to a Linksys router or the NETGEAR page for a NETGEAR router.
How do I change my SSID name and password? To change the SSID name and password on a router, log in to the router’s administrative console through a web browser. Then, locate the Wi-Fi network’s configuration page to edit the name and password.

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