Disable SSID Broadcast to Maybe Hide Your Wi-Fi Network

Does turning off SSID broadcast really 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 at regular intervals (every few seconds). This SSID broadcasting feature of Wi-Fi network protocols is intended to allow clients to dynamically discover and roam among wireless networks (WLANs). You can choose to disable this feature on your Wi-Fi networks but should be aware of the pros and cons.

Is SSID Broadcast a Network Security Risk?

Technically, this feature also makes it easier for hackers to break into your home network. Because SSIDs are not encrypted or otherwise scrambled, it becomes easy to grab one by monitoring local wireless traffic looking for SSID broadcast messages coming from the router or AP. Knowing your network's name brings hackers one step closer to a successful intrusion.

To be fair, a skilled hacker can discover a Wi-Fi network name with little additional effort by running Wi-Fi network sniffer programs.

How to Disable SSID Broadcast on a Wi-Fi Network

Disabling SSID broadcast on a home network requires signing into the router as an administrator and changing the setting to off. After that is done, the network name will no longer appear in the list of networks that appear when a wireless device runs its automatic scans. Any new Wi-Fi devices must be manually configured with profile settings (the network name, and security mode) to be able to find the wireless router the first time.

After making the initial connection, devices can remember these settings and will not need specially configured again.

Should You Disable SSID Broadcast On Your Home Network?

Home networks don't require the use of SSID broadcast unless a household is using multiple access points and roaming between them.

If your home network uses a single wireless router, deciding whether to turn off this features boils down to a trade off between

  1. the potential security benefits, and
  2. 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 should increase the chances that would-be intruders will bypass your home network seeking easier targets elsewhere. It also lowers the profile of your Wi-Fi network with neighboring households - potentially a big plus.

The extra effort to manually enter SSIDs on new client devices is an inconvenience for households that must be handled in return for these benefits.

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 or little network security they need in general, and then make a decision about this particular feature in view of an overall strategy.