What is an SSID?
Even if they use the internet extensively each day, many people will have never heard of the term SSID, and even fewer will know what it is. This is despite SSID names being something most people encounter and rely on every day. This article will break down what the term means, how it works, and why it matters.
What is an SSID and what is it used for?
SSID is an abbreviation for service set identifier, which is an important identifier for wireless networks. Essentially, an SSID is the name assigned to a Wi-Fi network when a router is set up. Examples of SSIDs might include “The Smith Home” or “Coffee House Rewards”. The router then uses the SSID to create a hotspot and broadcast its network within its vicinity. The SSID then acts as an access point so nearby devices, like laptops and smartphones, can locate and connect to it. When attempting to connect their device, users see a list of all available Wi-Fi networks and use the SSID as a name to identify the particular network they want to use. This identifier is often retained within the device so that it can reconnect to the same network automatically at a later time.
It is important to note that an SSID is simply a network name that is used as an identifier. Most Wi-Fi networks also enable some sort of security—usually a WPA2 or WPA3 protocol. As such, users will need to get the password or key for the network in order to connect to it.
How are SSID and WPA2 related in Wi-Fi?
For most Wi-Fi networks, both an SSID and a security key or password are required to connect to. WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access II) is a security protocol that defines a way to authenticate and then securely communicate for the router and the user’s device using this password. Each has a distinct function. What an SSID does is offer a way to distinguish one particular Wi-Fi network from others in the area so that users can choose the correct network to connect to. It is simply a name. However, WPA2 is a common standard of security—and security certification program—for wireless networks. When WPA2 security is enabled on a Wi-Fi network, users will require an alphanumeric password or key to connect to the internet.
How do I find my SSID number?
After learning what an SSID is, it is important that users are able to locate it and access the relevant Wi-Fi networks as necessary. For a new network, or one that has not had its name changed, the default SSID network can normally be found on a printed sticker on the router. The sticker is often located in the corner of the router’s base. However, many network owners configure their SSID with a unique name that is easy for them to find.
In this case, to work out what the SSID of a network is, a user will have to turn to their electronic devices. The easiest method of discovering a network’s SSID is to go into a device’s Wi-Fi settings and identify which network it is currently connected to. This will be the SSID of the local Wi-Fi network. However, this method of discovering an SSID name only works if a device has previously used the Wi-Fi network in question.
For those trying to connect to a Wi-Fi network that has not been previously used, the easiest way to learn its SSID is to ask the owner of the router. This is most applicable when staying at someone’s house or in a public space, such as a café.
What to do if the SSID is not showing up
In some cases, users may be unable to find the Wi-Fi network they want to connect to because they cannot find the SSID in the list of available wireless networks. There may be many reasons for this, such as:
- The SSID is hidden from public view (as set up by the owner)
- The device is not within range
- The router is not functioning properly
- The network adaptor on the device isn’t working, or wi-fi is turned off
To resolve the problem, the user may:
- Check that the SSID is not hidden
- Restart the router
- Restore the router to factory settings (this will reset the SSID to its default name)
- Verify the network name
- Move closer to the router, or use a wireless extender device
- Restart the device and update the drivers
- Ensure no objects or appliances are blocking the SSID hotspot
Choosing an SSID name
Most router manufacturers will set a default SSID for their devices. This would be the SSID name printed on a sticker on the router, and also the one broadcast when first setting up a Wi-Fi network. Usually, the default SSID for a Wi-Fi network will include the brand name of a router with a series of random numbers, such as “Linksys-3486” or “TP-LINK-3975”.
Of course, many network owners prefer to set their own SSIDs. A unique SSID makes it easy for users to find the relevant Wi-Fi network to connect to. Many businesses also seize this opportunity to capitalize on branding by creating SSID numbers that are very easy to find. For example, all Starbucks coffee shops have SSID names for their Wi-Fi networks that include the word “Starbucks”.
Changing an SSID
Although it is not strictly necessary to change the name of an SSID of a Wi-Fi network, doing so can sometimes be beneficial, for example, for those living in apartment buildings. This is because several neighbors might have routers from the same brand and thus, very similar SSIDs, meaning there can be a lot of confusion when trying to connect to the correct network. Instead of choosing from a list of SSIDs that begin with Linksys, for example, creating a unique name that has some meaning to the network owner—such as “The Smith Home” or “The Corner Café”—will make the network very easy to identify.
To set a new SSID , it is important to be able to access the router’s configuration i interface by navigating to it using a Web browser and the router’s IP (Internet Protocol) address.
Then, simply follow these steps:
- Locate the IP address of the router in question—this is usually on a sticker on the router.
- Use a computer or phone to connect to the router’s network.
- Open an internet browser window, such as Safari or Chrome.
- Log into the router’s Web interface page using the administrative credentials—again, the default values are normally on a sticker on the router.
- Navigate to the settings for the router’s WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network), or Wi-Fi
- Look for the SSID field, which should show the default SSID name.
- Type in the preferred SSID network name.
- Ensure these changes are saved before exiting the settings.
The new SSID—Wi-Fi network name—should appear on the device’s list of available networks within a few minutes. Sometimes, the list may need to be refreshed a few times before it appears, or the old and new SSID names may temporarily appear at the same time.
SSID security for Wi-Fi networks
Some users are rightfully concerned about the security of their Wi-Fi networks and SSIDs. This is why many network owners, and legitimate businesses, use the WPA2 security configuration and set a “key” (password). For example, if a network owner retains the default network name which includes the router’s brand name, a hacker can easily discover the make and model of the router and if it is vulnerable to a known attack, compromise it, e.g. by redirecting users to malicious websites to track online activity and steal personal data through that network. It is also important to note, that networks that does not employ WPA2 encryption, put their users at risk, because all their communications, including personal data, can be intercepted by the attackers nearby.
However, simply changing the SSID name and setting a password may not be enough to protect a Wi-Fi network. Many hackers can use brute-force or dictionary attacks to gain access to the network and steal personal information.
What a unique SSID name can do, though, is offer some security for publicly broadcast networks. Some hackers set up fake Wi-Fi networks with names that are very similar to legitimate ones so that unsuspecting users are duped into using the fake one. This is more often the case in public settings, such as airports, cafés, and restaurants, where people expect to be able to use free Wi-Fi. To minimize the occurrence of this, many legitimate businesses set unique SSID names and then require a password for connection. In addition, keeping the default SSID provided with a router can allow malicious actors to work out the router’s make and model and then hack into it to redirect users to malicious websites or track online activity over that network.
One thing internet users can do to ensure their privacy and security while online, regardless of the network’s SSID , is to consistently use a strong VPN service like Kaspersky VPN Secure Connection.
Should I hide my SSID network?
For some, the obvious answer to this would be to keep the SSID of the Wi-Fi network hidden from public view. After all, if the hacker cannot find the network, they can’t access it, right? However, SSIDs were not created to be hidden—they are meant to be located so that users can access a particular Wi-Fi network. In addition, malicious actors can use a range of programs to discover hidden SSIDs.
What happens if there are several networks with the same SSID name?
Many internet users may wonder what it means when two networks have the same or similar SSIDs. The immediate answer is that multiple SSIDs and routers can cause a great deal of confusion. In a private setting, such as someone’s home, users may attempt to connect to a network but be rejected for having the wrong password. This often happens in an apartment block or neighborhood where several networks use routers from the same brand and retain the default SSID numbers for their Wi-Fi networks. In addition, if two networks are using the same names and security settings, most devices will automatically connect to the one with the strongest signal or a previously set preferred network.
A more insidious scenario arises when a hacker spoofs a legitimate Wi-Fi network. What happens here is that the user mistakenly connects to a network being broadcast that has the same or similar name to the legitimate one they are looking for and then becomes subject to the hacker’s malicious actions.
SSIDs are the lynchpin of wireless networks
SSID names are crucial to the functioning of wireless networks. Without them, users would not be able to locate Wi-Fi hotspots on their iPhones and laptops and connect to the internet. While many routers come with default SSID names, many owners choose to customize this so that their network is more recognizable. However, in places where there might be multiple SSIDs and routers, users must take care to connect to the correct one. Because SSIDs do not offer any security by themselves, choosing the wrong one—and thus, an unintended network—may compromise the privacy of a device and the security of its data.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an SSID?
The meaning of SSID is “service set identifier”, which is simply the public name given to a wireless network. The network’s router broadcasts its SSID publicly so that users can easily find and connect to the network they need with their electronic devices. Importantly, SSIDs are simply a way of distinguishing different Wi-Fi networks and do not offer any of security on their own.
How do I find my SSID ?
In many cases, an SSID name can be located on the router of a Wi-Fi network. Usually, a sticker at the bottom of the router will show the network’s name and password. However, these are the default settings, and many owners prefer to configure the router and network settings to create their own SSID name and password. In this case, users may have to ask the owner for these credentials in order to access the network in question Still, if the user has previously connected a device to the network, they can simply check the device’s network setting—the SSID name should be the network the device is connected to.
Kaspersky Endpoint Security received three AV-TEST awards for the best performance, protection, and usability for a corporate endpoint security product in 2021. In all tests, Kaspersky Endpoint Security showed outstanding performance, protection, and usability for businesses.
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