Disable SSID Broadcast to "Hide" Your Wi-Fi Network

Does Turning Off SSID Broadcast Improve Your Home Network Security?

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Most broadband routers and other wireless access points (APs) automatically transmit their network name (SSID) into open air every few seconds. You can choose to disable this feature on your Wi-Fi network but before you do, be aware of the pros and cons.

The simple reason SSID broadcasting is used in the first place is to make it easy for clients to see and connect to the network. Otherwise, they have to know the name beforehand, and set up a manual connection to it.

However, 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?

Consider an analogy of a burglar. Locking the door when you leave your house is a wise decision because it prevents your average burglar from just 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's 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's settings, the page for disabling SSID broadcast is different depending on your 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, you can see this Linksys page for instructions pertaining to a Linksys router, or this one 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 entire 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 it's using multiple access points that devices are roaming between.

If your network uses a single router, deciding whether to turn off this features boils down to a trade off between the potential security benefits and a loss of convenience in setting up new home network clients

Although some network enthusiasts are quick to dismiss the network security benefits of doing so, using this technique will increase the chances that would-be intruders will bypass your network and look for easier targets elsewhere.

It also lowers the profile of your Wi-Fi network with neighboring households - another potential plus.

However, the extra effort to manually enter SSIDs on new client devices is an inconvenience for households. Instead of just giving out your network password, you have to include the SSID and security mode.

Note that disabling SSID broadcast is just one of many possible techniques for tightening security on a Wi-Fi network.

A household should assess how much network security they need in general, and then make a decision about this particular feature in view of an overall strategy.