What is SSID: A guide to understanding your Wi-Fi network

Kfir Yeshayahu

January 23, 2024

  • # Identity Protection
  • # Account Protection
  • # Fraud Prevention

When you set up a Wi-Fi network, one of your first tasks is to identify or create the name for the network. More formally, that “name” is a Service Set Identifier (SSID). This important moniker helps you identify what is your SSID versus another network.

You need to be able to easily find and recognize your network SSID so that you can tell the difference between yours and your neighbor’s — whether they’re the resident next door, another company in your office building, or a nearby cyber criminal with a fake network.

Here’s everything you need to know about SSIDs, including why they’re so significant and how to boost your SSID security.

What is a service set identifier (SSID)?

An SSID is the technical term for the name of a Wi-Fi network. When you scan for Wi-Fi networks on a Wi-Fi-enabled device, the list of names you see represents different SSIDs nearby. These unique identifiers allow devices to distinguish one wireless network from another. This way, when you choose to connect to “Home Wi-Fi” or “iPhone Hotspot,” you know you're connecting to the right network. 

How to find your SSID number

To connect to a Wi-Fi network, you need to know the exact network SSID and how to locate it from your device. Here’s how to find it on different devices and operating systems:

  1. Routers: Typically, routers have a label that displays the default SSID. This label is usually on the bottom or side of the router and also includes other security-related information, like the default Wi-Fi password (WPA/WEP key). Since you can customize SSIDs upon setup, the default SSID may not match the active SSID, and you may have to check with the person who set up the network to confirm.

  2. Windows devices: To find nearby SSIDs on a Windows device, click on the Wi-Fi icon in the taskbar, usually at the bottom right of your screen. This action will display a list of available Wi-Fi networks. If your device is already connected to a network, that SSID will appear at the top of the list.

  3. macOS: For macOS users, the process is similar. Click on the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar at the top right corner of your screen. You’ll see a list of network SSIDs. The SSID with a blue Wi-Fi symbol next to it indicates your current network connection.

  4. iOS and Android devices: If you have an iOS device, navigate to “Settings,” tap on “Wi-Fi,” and look for your current network (indicated by a checkmark) to see your SSID. Android users can find their SSID by going to “Settings” and selecting “Wi-Fi.” The SSID of the active network connection will display at the top of the list.

  5. Network settings: If you're having difficulty finding your SSID or suspect someone has changed it, you can access it through your router's web interface. This process requires connecting your computer to the router using an Ethernet cable. Once connected, you can log into the router’s administrator panel to view and adjust your SSID and network settings.

What happens if multiple Wi-Fi networks have the same SSID?

Most routers come with default SSID names, like “NETGEAR 85,” and the similarities can cause confusion when you search for or connect to your network.

For example, if your device disconnects from your network momentarily, it may try to reconnect to the network with the next strongest signal — which may not be your original network. If the network it attempts to connect to has the same name as yours, one of three things could happen:

  1. The other network has a unique password, and your device simply won’t connect to it.

  2. The other network is unsecured and has no password protection, so your device connects. Because of the identical SSID, you may not realize what’s happened at first — or for a while — but the owner of the network has no bad intent, so your online privacy remains unscathed. 

  3. Not only is the network unsecured, but it also happens to be a malicious network. Your device connects to it, you fail to realize you’re on a strange network, and a cyber criminal uses your connection to access your sensitive information, like passwords and credit card details. 

While the first option is what you hope happens, there’s always a chance the third option could occur and jeopardize your security. This is why having a unique SSID is important — it takes most of the guesswork out of Wi-Fi connectivity and helps you stick to your own network.

Should you change your SSID?

Changing your SSID to something unique can make it easier to connect your devices to your network or help guests log on. Customizing your SSID also removes any clues as to which router model you’re using, making it harder for hackers to exploit known vulnerabilities for those brands. 

Having an original SSID can also help you avoid “evil twin” attacks, where hackers set up fake Wi-Fi access points with common SSID names to deceive users into connecting. While it doesn’t prevent all types of cyber attacks, a unique SSID boosts overall network safety and manageability.

Learning how to change your SSID is simple. Just enter your router’s internet protocol (IP) address into your browser, log in, and navigate to the SSID settings to make your adjustments. You can also check your router’s manual or the manufacturer’s website for more information on how to change it. 

The pros and cons of hiding your SSID

Not only can you change your SSID — but you can also conceal it. To do this, you simply access your router settings and look for the "hide SSID" option. This keeps your SSID from appearing on the list of nearby networks, so you’ll have to manually enter the SSID on your device to establish a connection. Hiding your SSID can make it harder for hackers to find your network, but it isn't a foolproof measure.

Tools exist that can detect hidden SSIDs, so any hacker with access to these tools could still uncover your network. If they do, they may think you have something valuable to protect, making you a more appealing target.

Having added security measures in place beyond hiding your SSID can help you prevent snoopy cyber criminals from accessing your network and stealing your data. For example, with two-factor authentication (2FA), you can add a layer of security to your logins that hackers can’t easily obtain, like an app or SMS verification code. After you log in with your credentials, you’ll be asked to provide your verification code for access.

This means that even if scammers get their hands on your password, they can’t get any further without your verification codes. If you want to take even more security, use IronVest’s biometric authentication, which uses a scan of your face as your form of verification.

Steps to keep your network secure

Taking a proactive approach to your Wi-Fi security can help you keep your online activities and private data safe from cyber threats. Here are a few measures you can implement to maximize your network safety and prepare for future vulnerabilities:

  1. Use strong encryption methods, like Wi-Fi protected access (WPA): WPA is a network security standard that uses encryption (coded data) to secure data traffic between devices and routers. When you set up your network security protocols, look for the latest versions (WPA2/WPA3) to ensure optimal security.

  2. Create a unique, strong Wi-Fi password: Creating a complex password for your Wi-Fi network can help keep out unwelcome users. Use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols, and avoid common password choices like birthdates or pet names. For added security, change your password periodically.

  3. Change your router admin credentials: Some router models use similar administrator credentials, making them easy to exploit. As soon as you set up your network, make sure you change these credentials to something unique and complex to prevent unauthorized access to your router's settings.

  4. Regularly update your firmware: Firmware updates often include security patches that address new vulnerabilities. By keeping your router's firmware updated, you reduce your chances of having a cyber criminal exploit an unpatched weakness in your network.

  5. Set up a guest network: Creating a separate network for guests protects your primary network. It gives users access to the internet but keeps them isolated from the main network. This reduces the risk of malware entering your primary network from guest devices.

  6. Use a virtual private network (VPN): A VPN encrypts your internet connection and masks your device’s IP address, keeping your online activities private and secure from potential eavesdropping or data interception. This added layer of security is especially useful on public Wi-Fi networks with lax security. 

Securing your Wi-Fi with IronVest

Your network SSID plays an important role in safeguarding your online presence. Having a unique and easily identifiable name helps you make sure you’re choosing the right network each time you use your Wi-Fi and steer clear of unsecured connections. 

To elevate your network security to the highest level, consider IronVest. With state-of-the-art tools like biometric authentication, you can ensure no one but you can access your online credentials — all it takes is a scan of your face each time you log in. Get IronVest today and discover a world of unparalleled security and digital privacy.

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