Hide Your SSID?
I have a wireless network at home, which lets me get an internet connection on my laptop all over the house. But I'm concerned that neighbors or people driving by can hack into my computer. A friend said that hiding my SSID will solve the problem. What's a wireless SSID, how do I hide it, and will it help?
Does Hiding the SSID Make Wireless Secure?
If you have high-speed internet service, chances are you have a wireless router. If that's true, you may be sharing your internet connection (and possibly your hard drive) with strangers. Your friend who mentioned hiding the SSID meant well, but that's not the best solution to securing your wireless network.
Let's take a step back... If your internet router/modem has an antenna, you've got a wireless network. Wireless routers send out a beacon called the SSID (or Service Set IDentifier) so wireless devices (such as a laptop) can identify and connect to the wireless network. The purpose of the SSID is to broadcast the availability of the wireless network and invite devices within range of the signal to connect.
If a device doesn't know the wireless network's SSID, it cannot connect. So that's why some people recommend that you change the settings on your router to keep it from broadcasting the SSID. This allows only the people who already know the SSID to connect to the wireless network.
If you understand that hiding the SSID gives only minimal protection from intruders, and you still want to do so, you can change this setting by logging into your router from a web browser. In most cases, you'll need to connect to http://192.168.0.1 then enter the router's login and password. If the person who installed the router didn't change the factory settings, there's a good chance the login is admin and the password is password.
Refer to the owner's manual for your wireless router (or ask your internet service provider) for details on how to login to the router and change the SSID or other security settings.
Secure Wireless Networking
Given that hiding the SSID doesn't do a whole lot to secure a wireless network, here are some steps you can take that WILL help. For each of the steps that follow, I'm assuming you have logged into your router...
- STEP 1: Change the router's login and password from the default. If your wireless router still has the factory default login and password, then ANYONE could connect to the router, change the settings and lock YOU out!
- STEP 2: Change the SSID from the default setting to something meaningful. Most routers are configured with an SSID name of default. It won't do much good to turn off the SSID beacon if the SSID can be so easily guessed. Set the SSID to something unique and memorable like FLUFFY2 or FIDO7.
- STEP 3: Turn on encryption. This is the most important step by far. If you turn on WEP or WPA encryption, the router will not give access to wireless devices unless they provide the password you specify. This will also encrypt all communication between your wireless computer and the router. If your router supports WPA (or WPA/PSK) use that instead of WEP, which is an older technology.
For additional help with home networking and secure wireless computing, see the articles below:
Got comments on hiding the SSID or wireless network security? Post your thoughts below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 14 Dec 2006
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Hide Your SSID? (Posted: 14 Dec 2006)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved