When it comes to network connections, Wi-Fi networks are the most preferred medium. From downloading applications and major software updates, devices always ask to connect to Wi-Fi networks. This is because they offer higher speeds and greater bandwidths. While they provide greater convenience, the risks associated with Wi-Fi networks are also bigger. It is quite easy for professionals to tap the airwaves and spy on the internet traffic flowing through it.
Using sophisticated tools and techniques, a hacker doesn’t even have to be connected to the same network. They can get access to a lot of information just by the name of the connection. This includes the MAC address of the router and the device which ‘trusts’ that particular network. This information is enough to determine the location of the user effectively. So, how do you limit this threat? What is SSID and what role does it play in making a Wi-Fi network vulnerable? These are some of the questions which will be answered ahead.
What is SSID?
A Service Set Identifier or SSID is the name of the Wi-Fi connection which is displayed on a device when you search for nearby routers. By default, it is the name of the service provider or the manufacturer of the equipment. It is easy for a user to change this name in whatever way they want. SSID’s display the connections which are available in the vicinity, the respective strength, and security. If you go into the Wi-Fi menu of your phone, the list which appears are SSIDs of networks being displayed.
The SSID of your network is not only being displayed on your phone but it appears on every device which comes within range. The router transmits an SSID every few seconds and this is picked up by every gadget which comes within range. There is a lot of other information which is given out with the SSID. This includes the channel and security protocols of the network. Any device receiving the SSID can tell whether the network is open or protected.
Home Wi-Fi networks usually have password protection which is exclusive to the residents, but in public spaces, the password is available to anyone willing to use it.
IS SSID A Network Security Risk
An SSID is like your home address. A router on which the SSID broadcast is turned on is essentially transmitting the exact coordinators to your home every few seconds. Users can imagine how this can become a security threat easily. The SSID of a router which is being openly displayed is visible to the neighbors but more importantly, it appears to any hacker who might be on the lookout for unsuspecting victims. With the SSID turned on, you are leaving the door open to your house so that any person looking to steal something can easily gain access to it.
Hiding the SSID broadcast of your network is not a fool-proof measure to protect yourself from Wi-Fi hacking. However, it is the first step in protecting yourself from the issue, much like locking the doors to your house. It is the basic step in protecting the house from burglars but by no means does it indicate that the safety is absolute. A determined thief will still try other means to enter the house.
Any hacker with the proper tools and knowledge can still trace the network traffic and find out which network you are using to browse the internet. There are other means to help restrict this type of spying altogether and we will get into this later.
How to Disable SSID on Wi-Fi
If it’s not the best of measures doesn’t mean that you just leave the front door wide open. Safety from Wi-Fi hacking must begin by hiding your home address from being publicly broadcasted. Then we can move on to more sophisticated things.
The SSID settings on every router are found in different places. Usually, it requires you to sign in to the homepage of your router’s portal and search for the page where this option is given. The placement of the page may differ based on which router you are using. Either you have a Linksys or a NETGEAR router, the settings will be in different places. The option in most cases in ‘SSID Broadcast’ and by default, it is set to ‘On.’ It is important to note that administrator access is required to change these settings.
In order to turn it off, you have to search for the owner’s manual of your router either on the internet or in the box which it came in. Once you have the instructions in front of you, it is relatively easy to log in and change the settings for your SSID. With the SSID Broadcast turned off, the network becomes invisible to you and any other devices which might have been receiving the ping in the range of the router.
How to connect to a Network with Hidden SSID
Okay, the SSID broadcast on the network has been disabled. This means that even the owner of the house can’t see their own Wi-Fi connection! Then how do they connect to their own home network? What type of fix is this you may ask? Well, as it was pointed out earlier, the step is like locking the door to your house. You’ll have to use the key every time you enter but at least it is going to keep you safe. It is the same case with disabling the SSID broadcast on your Wi-Fi router.
Connecting to a network with a hidden SSID is not as simple as it is when it is just turned on. You enter the house and your mobile device automatically connects to the network. When the SSID broadcast has been turned off, the network name will obviously not be visible to any wireless device, not even your own. In order to use the connection then, there is a need for a one-time manual configuration.
The device will ask for certain information like the name of the router and security mode etc. Once you enter these, the device will remember them for you. You won’t have to enter the same details again and again but you will have to go into the settings of your phone and connect to the network manually.
Yes, it is an added task every time you want Wi-Fi access even in your home. It is highly recommended though because it is an effective step in protecting yourself from the threat of Wi-Fi hacking.
Should you Broadcast you WIFI SSID or not?
The answer to this question depends on how much you are bothered by privacy intrusion and the threat of potential cybercrimes. If these are issues which don’t concern you in any way you are welcome to leave the normal settings intact.
On the other hand, if you understand the risks involved, you’ll pick the slight inconvenience over an open SSID broadcast. For home networks, this is the only factor which is influential in making the appropriate decision. Disabling the SSID broadcast of your home network will mean that every time a new person wants to connect to the network, you have to either give them a whole pack of settings or do it for them too.
Before you make the decision it is essential to know that a hidden Wi-Fi makes it less of a threat to hackers who might be on the prow to perform malicious activities of any kind. They’ll probably move on to a network which is an easier target. Discovering a Wi-Fi where the SSID broadcast is disabled means watching for data traffic occurring in the vicinity. This requires a specific skill set and equipment which everyone doesn’t have. Moreover, hiding the SSID on your Wi-Fi will also make it less prominent with the neighbors so fewer people come around asking to share it.
How to increase WIFI Security
There are several steps you can take to increase the security of your Wi-Fi. Besides disabling the SSID broadcast, users can use strong network security keys and enable WPA 2 encryption. Most routers come with this setting on as default but in case your router is not, it is a good idea to do that. This option can easily be found in the settings of the router.
While all these steps will make you invisible to the naked eye, a persistent hacker may still go after your network connection using other methods. The most frequent way is to look into your data traffic. And guess what? You have the ability to mask this too.
With a VPN! These programs are designed to make all your browsing sessions anonymous. A reliable service like Ivacy will not only provide you with the basic features of masking your identity while you are connected to the internet, it also provides added Public Wi-Fi security. These connections are the ones which are most vulnerable when it comes to Wi-Fi hacking.
Ivacy will not only protect you from hackers but also give an added benefit in the form of an internet kill switch. This function pulls the plug on the internet connection of your device in case the VPN protection fails. It keeps you safe rather than sorry.