Disable SSID Broadcast to Hide Your Wi-Fi Network

Does turning off SSID Broadcast improve your home network security?

Most broadband routers and other wireless access points (APs) automatically transmit their network name (SSID) into the open air every few seconds. SSID broadcasting makes it easy for clients to see and connect to the network. Otherwise, they have to know the name and set up a manual connection to it.

You can choose to disable this feature on your Wi-Fi network but before you do, be aware of the pros and cons. With the SSID enabled, not only do your neighbors see your network any time they browse for nearby Wi-Fi, it makes it easier for potential hackers to see that you have a wireless network within range.

Is SSID Broadcast a Network Security Risk?

Internet browser, binary code and security icon (Digital Composite)
Crowther & Carter / Getty Images

Consider an analogy of a burglar. Locking the door when leaving the house is a wise decision because it prevents the average burglar from walking right in. However, a determined one will either break through the door, pick the lock, or enter through a window.

Similarly, while it's technically a better decision to keep your SSID hidden away, it's not a fool-proof security measure. A hacker with the right tools and enough time can sniff out the traffic coming from your network, find the SSID, and continue on their hacking way.

Knowing your network name brings hackers one step closer to a successful intrusion, just like how an unlocked door paves the way for a burglar.

How to Disable SSID Broadcast on a Wi-Fi Network

Disabling SSID broadcast requires signing into the router as an administrator. Once inside the router settings, the page for disabling SSID broadcast is different depending on the router. It's probably called SSID Broadcast and is set to Enabled by default.

Check with your router manufacturer for detailed information on hiding the SSID. For example, go to the Linksys website for instructions pertaining to a Linksys router, or to the NETGEAR page for a NETGEAR router.

How to Connect to a Network With a Hidden SSID

The network name isn't shown to wireless devices, which is the reason for disabling the SSID broadcast. Connecting to the network, then, isn't as easy.

Since the SSID no longer appears in the list of networks shown to wireless devices, they have to configure the profile settings manually, including the network name and security mode. After making the initial connection, devices can remember these settings and will not need to be specially configured again.

As an example, an iPhone can connect to a hidden network through the Settings app in the Wi-Fi > Other menu.

Should You Disable SSID Broadcast on Your Home Network?

Home networks don't require the use of a visible SSID unless the network uses multiple access points that devices roam between. If your network uses a single router, turning off this feature is a trade-off between the potential security benefits and a loss of convenience in setting up new home network clients.

Although some network enthusiasts dismiss the network security benefits of doing so, using this technique increases the chances that intruders will bypass your network and look for an easier target. It also lowers the profile of your Wi-Fi network with neighboring households.

However, the extra effort to manually enter SSIDs on new client devices is an inconvenience for households. Instead of giving out only the network password, the SSID and security mode are also required.

Disabling SSID broadcast is one possible technique to tighten security on a Wi-Fi network. A household should assess how much network security is needed, then make a decision about this feature in view of an overall strategy.