SSID is the abbreviation of Service Set Identifier. You Wi-Fi network name is SSID. When you want to connect your phone or laptop to the Wi-Fi, you need SSID. So, a Service Set Identifier (SSID) is basically the name of your wifi base station that is visible to the public. It can be a combination of alphabets, numbers, and characters which makes your wifi base station name stand out from the rest.
You must have gone to a public place and tried to connect to a local wi-fi network. The list of names shown to you is the Service Set Identifiers. These are the names of all the networks that are within range of your device.
SSID can also be referred to as the network name. It allows local users to identify a particular network.
There are usually a lot of wifi network names listed whenever you open your wi-fi settings. You will see the names of organizations or an individual’s hotspot depending on your places like home or office.
For example, an individual’s service set identifier could be set as their name while a private company may set its network name to XYZ Company.
A broadband router or a modem on home-based wi-fi networks is the one that stores the SSID but also allows administrators to change it. The router broadcasts the set name which helps the other wireless clients find and connect to that particular network.
Key Features of SSID
An SSID is a case-sensitive text-based string. An SSID can have maximum length of 32 characters and can also have a mixture of the letter or even numbers. Although you can use up to 32 characters, there’s no lower limit, but it’s recommended that don’t make the Service Set Identifier too short that it causes confusion (for example “ME” or a couple of digits).
It is strongly recommended that the default network name should be changed as it may reveal the router’s manufacturer and will make it easy for hackers to make use of loopholes and steal the information.
All the brands that manufactures routers have a default Service Set Identifier like Xfinity wifi, Linksys, NETGEAR, Dlink etc. Well no routers as such have a default name because it can be changed anyway.
Normally a distinct pattern unique to the manufacturer is the followed by default Service Set Identifiers. For example, Virgin Media begins its SSIDs with the prefix VM followed by a set of numbers, such as VM-12345. Sky and BT follow a similar pattern. A number of manufacturers also do this with devices they sell to the consumer, such as Netgear.
If you wish to change the Service Set Identifier from a set of letters and numbers into something more memorable and to distinguish it from similar routers in the neighborhood. Then this can be done by accessing the web-based admin settings found in nearly all modern routers.
How devices use SSIDs?
You will be asked to configure your access to the internet whenever you set up a connected device for the first time, or while attempting to connect to a new network. You will typically be asked to scan for available networks in your area and choose the most appropriate as per your needs, often a home or business Wi-fi. These wi-fi networks will either be open and free of any immediate authentication checks or locked, which means it requires a password to access. It shows that it has security enabled which is usually WPA2. So for connecting to a locked network, you will be asked to input a password before your computer attempts to contact the host.
The list of available networks will only show when these networks have configured to publically display their Service Set Identifier or personalized name. For accessing any hidden networks you will need to input their SSID or name manually, alongside the password if necessary. You have to choose ‘hidden’ or ‘disable SSID’ in the router’s settings to prevent a network from displaying on the list of available connections.
Once your device is connected to a network, you can save its details and connect to it automatically each time you enable Wi-Fi. In simple terms, once you are connected the device usually asks if you want to save the network or wish to reconnect automatically in the future. Whenever you use a device to connect to a device such as a phone or a laptop, it scans the whole area for wifi base stations that are operating in that particular area. You can even set up a connection manually.
To improve Wi-Fi network security most wireless routers these days offer the option to disable Service Set Identifier broadcasting. This is done because then it gets important for the client to remember two passwords.
There are many issues with SSID such as:
- One can guess the security by looking at an SSID. If a network name doesn’t have wireless security enabled then anyone can easily connect by knowing the Service Set Identifier only.
- Many people use the default SSID and get confused when a few more SSIDs have the same brand name such as Belkin in their names. In such a situation whenever your mobile/laptop comes in contact with two similar network names, it will connect to the one that has a strong signal. There can also be a case where a person might get dropped from their own home network and get connected to a neighbor because they don’t have any protection setting enabled.
- Your SSID is for your convenience so that you can understand and remember your wi-fi base station. If you have weird Service Set Identifier then you risk inviting hackers to attack your wifi.
- Many times, A Service Set Identifier can contain publicly visible abusive language.
Although almost every wireless network around the world uses SSID for connecting to the internet, it’s considered to be a relatively unsafe way of connecting to the internet. It is unsafe because even if you’ve chosen to hide your SSID so it’s not discoverable by others, there are software and apps developed to uncover any hidden networks.
Some data packets leave traces of the SSID they’re travelling through as you send requests even if such an app or software isn’t employed by people hoping to find hidden networks. If these are prevented, hackers could identify the name of your network if they want to using data packet traces.
Another reason for SSIDs being unsafe is that if a lot of your neighbors use the same ISP same as you (for example, BT or Virgin Media), their default SSID will probably be very similar to yours and as so few people change from their default network name, it’s quite easy to accidentally try to connect to the wrong one.
And, for example, if one of you doesn’t have security switched on, you may find that smartphones and other devices set up to connect to the strongest network may be using the wrong connection by default. If the network without security doesn’t have large download limits, it could result in a hefty overage bill or choked speeds.