What is My SSID & Should I Hide It?

Posted on Jan 9, 2023 by Trey Charles

Understanding what an SSID is (of a network) is critical to optimizing your cybersecurity. When you forget to change the SSID and password for your router, you’re leaving yourself open to attacks and anyone can hack their way into your network.

You wouldn’t buy a home and leave the locks unchanged, so why access a network without changing its SSID? We’re going to take a look at what an SSID is, as well as how you can go about changing (and securing) it for yourself. 

What is the SSID (of a Network)?

SSID stands for “Service Set ID”, which acts as the name of your network. This allows access points or wireless routers/networks to easily identify themselves among all of the others available.  

It’ll show up on the list of local networks you can use when searching for a Wi-Fi connection. 

An SSID is made up of letters, numbers, and special characters, and the letters in them are case-sensitive. By WLAN standards, they can reach up to 32 characters in length. 

How to Find SSID on Wi-Fi

Almost every SSID has a WPA2 key to go along with it. These keys act as the password required to access said network. 

Sometimes you can find your SSID and WPA2 key on the router or network access point (via a sticker). It’s not the only way though – we’ll quickly go through different techniques to find your SSID.

Routers

NOTE: This only applies to unchanged routers with default SSIDs. 

Step 1: Flip over your router and find the sticker printed on the bottom or side. If you don’t see the WPA2 on the sticker, you can find it by signing into your router’s settings page, usually via browser.

Step 2: Write down (or take a pic of) the username and password for later!

Flip over your router and find the sticker that looks like this.

Windows

Step 1: Click on the Wi-Fi icon located in the bottom right corner of your screen – this will show you a list of available networks.

Find a list of available SSIDs by clicking here.

Step 2: The SSID you’re connected to will be displayed at the top of the list. 

Windows automatically displays the SSID of any network you use.

Android

Step 1: Go to Settings > Wi-Fi.

Step 2: The network (and SSID) you’re using will display as “Connected.”

Finding your SSID on Android is also relatively straightforward.

MacOS

Step 1: Go to Settings > Wi-Fi.

Look for a symbol like this in the top-right corner of your screen.

Step 2: The network (and SSID) you’re using will be displayed, along with other local networks.

Once you’ve found and clicked on the symbol, your SSID will be shown on-screen.

iOS

Step 1. Go to Settings.

Step 2. Tap on Wi-Fi.

Step 3. The SSID you’re connected to will have a checkmark beside it.

Does It Help If I Hide or Change My SSID?

Yes, changing your SSID can help prevent cybercriminals from hacking into your network. That said, hiding an SSID isn’t enough when you’re going up against seasoned hackers because they know how to access them regardless. So, you’ll need to take some additional precautionary measures.

You must get into the habit of changing the SSID and WPA2 before connecting to a network you’ve set up. It minimizes your exposure to malicious users online, and it’s relatively easy to do. 

Let’s say you’ve just purchased a brand new router on Amazon and haven’t changed the SSID configuration yet. Not only will your SSID and WPA2 key be easy to guess, but you’ll be sharing it with everyone else who owns the same router. This only applies if they also haven’t changed the network information, but it’s quite common.

Hackers with malicious intent could access your network once they figure out the SSID is “PIARouter” and your WPA2 key is still “password”. As such, changing your network name immediately is a smart and recommended move.

Is There Such a Thing as SSID Security?

Hiding your network name won’t provide any actual security. The only thing it does is hide the name, and not the network itself. Hackers can still try to connect to your network through other means, as all it takes is typing a few words into the Command Prompt app to display available local networks (even if they’re hidden). 

Thankfully, using a VPN is an easy way to improve your SSID security. Create a strong password, enable WPA2 or WPA3 router encryption, and connect to PIA for the most reliable SSID security possible. Our VPN wraps your data in encryption and hides your IP address, so even if a hacker does infiltrate your network, they can’t access your data.

How Can I Check If An SSID is Legit?

Hotspot Honeypots

If you’re traveling and using unprotected Wi-Fi in the airport, this is an important process to learn. Hackers can create a “hotspot honeypot” in an attempt to steal personal information, which is where they mimic legitimate SSIDs and give a false sense of security to users. Once you’ve connected, honeypots can access all of your personal info and online activity. 

Honeypots are difficult to spot by nature, and, if you have to use public Wi-Fi, a VPN can help secure your personal information and maintain your privacy by hiding your real data. Honeypots are incredibly problematic, but learning how to verify an SSID before connecting can help you avoid them with ease. 

Why is It So Important?

Verifying the legitimacy of a network before you connect to it is important, especially if you plan on doing some online banking or anything else high-risk. Safe public Wi-Fi is also a major concern for most internet users.

You may have even connected to a honeypot in the past and had no clue. Once you’re connected, hackers can launch a man-in-the-middle attack in an attempt to steal your information or track activity. 

Endless opportunities await hackers who are willing to set up these honeypots, and they have an increased chance of committing cybercrimes such as:

    ❗ Hacking into a bank account
    ❗ Stealing personal information
    ❗ Engaging in ransomware attacks
    ❗ Business email compromise attacks

Strengthening your SSID and using a VPN to encrypt your data is an absolute must if you want to halt these sorts of attacks in the future. 

Private Networks

Private networks are the ones used in office buildings and homes all over the world. As you would find in your home network, a legitimate SSID will feature WPA2 encryption, often requiring a password for access. 

If you access a network you’re certain has a WPA2 key, but it isn’t asking for one, you may want to second guess your choice. 

Public Networks

Looking forward to your upcoming vacation? If so, just remember you’ll need the best holiday cyber security tricks to stay secure – vacations almost always come with public Wi-Fi networks.

Public networks are trickier as they tend to let people connect without a password. For example, your gym may offer free Wi-Fi, but most of the time you’ll need to accept their terms via a web page before gaining access. 

It’s nearly impossible to verify the legitimacy of a public network without confirmation from the people who set it up. But, with PIA’s powerful data encryption, you don’t have to worry. Nobody can track your activity or steal your info on public Wi-Fi while you’re connected to a VPN server. 

How to Choose a Good SSID for My Network

Want to ensure your network is not only uniquely named but secure as well? It can be tough to distinguish the best SSID for your network, but here are a few tips to help you. 

    🧠 Personalize the name

You don’t want your network to be too easily identifiable, but you should never have any issues finding it yourself. Routers or other pre-configured WAPs (wireless access points) have default SSIDs and your neighbors may share the same or similar information. You can name the network whatever you want, just keep it easy to remember for yourself.

    🧠 Band steering (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz)

Most networks are making the move over to 5G (5 GHz) these days, but many support older devices without 5G as well. They do this through band steering, which is when you aren’t forced to use 5G on non-compatible devices.

Band steering helps your network automatically connect to the proper Wi-Fi frequency, according to your device. 

Most of the time, your ISP will configure this for you, as each frequency will share the same SSID. If your WAP doesn’t offer band steering, you can always create two separate SSIDs for each frequency. 

    🧠 Make your SSID visible

SSIDs are merely an access point for your network and you can hide them if you’d like (as mentioned earlier). You’ll want to keep guest networks visible for convenience purposes though! Also, hiding the SSID of your main network means those who lack technical skills won’t be able to connect.

Your friends and family will look at you with frustration when they can’t access the Wi-Fi, so if it’s in a private setting (like at home), you’re better off making the SSID visible. 

What Can I Do to Protect My Home Network?

Encrypt Your Data

PIA VPN offers 256-bit AES encryption to keep your connection protected from prying eyes and cybercriminals – attackers tend to focus on easy targets, after all. If they fail to intercept your data or infect you with malicious content the first time around, odds are they won’t come back for round two. 

You can even install PIA on your router and keep your connection encrypted from sun up to sun down. 

Transition to a WPA3 Router

WPA3 routers were launched in 2018 and are considered the safest option possible, as they improve upon security vulnerabilities in WPA2 models. If you’re still using your ISP’s router, chances are it’s a WPA2. 

Times are always changing, and so is technology. Most routers using WPA2 or WPA3 also offer an encryption option, but it forces you to manually reconnect all of your devices after enabling it

Update Device Firmware

Updating your network device’s firmware (e.g., a router) is also an important step. If your router runs on outdated firmware, some of the newer tricks cybercriminals use will work effortlessly. 

You need to triple & quadruple check that you’re getting the latest firmware.

Change Your Default SSID and Password

If you haven’t already, changing your network SSID and password is a massive step towards optimal network security. To do this, you can find your default SSID and password on your router and use the credentials to log in. Here’s how you can do it yourself on Windows:

  1. Open Windows Command Prompt.
  2. Enter “ipconfig”.
  3. Find your IP address.
  4. Type it into the URL box of any browser.
  5. Login with your network credentials.
  6. Open the Wi-Fi settings.
  7. Change the SSID and password.

Remember, instructions may vary depending on your router. 

Create a Guest Network

If you don’t want your house or network guests to connect to the same SSID, you always have the option of implementing a guest policy. 

You can easily create another SSID strictly reserved for guests, but we highly recommend you don’t create any more than you need; one extra is plenty, and not every individual will need their own SSID. 

Disable Wi-Fi When It’s Not In-Use

Not using your Wi-Fi or plan on going out all day? Disable your Wi-Fi before you leave! Nobody can connect to the network without power, and if you’ve turned off Wi-Fi entirely, you’ve got nothing to worry about. 

If you aren’t using it anyway, it makes sense to shut off your Wi-Fi and minimize the chance a cybercriminal slips into your network.

Watch Out for Backdoors!

You should also be careful where you purchase your router from – if you buy one used or from a second-hand store, it could come with hidden hardware backdoors. 

Routers often have a remote access feature letting you connect from a different location, but it can be dangerous. Some viruses are even used to enable remote access on devices and use them as “zombies”, so you should consider disabling it as well. 

Make It Tough on Cybercriminals by Improving your SSID

Use the tricks you’ve learned here today to improve your SSID and secure your network. Cybercriminals can be relentless when they’ve set their sights on a target, but proper network configuration can easily ruin their plans.

Pair your newfound SSID knowledge with uncrackable data encryption from PIA to protect your info from snoops and cybercriminals. You can also block ads, trackers, and other junk that slows your computer down with PIA’s MACE. 

To fortify your SSID security and give cybercriminals the boot, try PIA risk-free for 30 days with our money-back guarantee. 

FAQ

What does SSID for Wi-Fi mean?

SSID stands for “Service Set Identifier” and is a way to identify different Wi-Fi networks. 

You need a strong SSID paired with a reliable VPN to encrypt your data and remain more private; it’s the best way to prevent cybercriminals and hackers from targeting your network. 

How do I find my network’s SSID?

You can check out the how-to guides at the beginning of this article to see the different ways in which you can identify your SSID. 

What’s an example of a good SSID?

You want your SSID to be unique, but not difficult to identify. Get as creative as you’d like – for example, I’ve seen neighbors get into arguments using nothing but SSIDs. “Apartment203IsLoud” or “WhosBabyIsCrying?” might be too unique for some, but they work!

A unique SSID alone can’t protect your privacy online though; you need a VPN. Download PIA VPN to secure personal data and prevent trackers from spoiling your newfound privacy.

Does it help if I hide my SSID?

No, it doesn’t really help if you hide your SSID. If hackers want to get their hands on your SSID, hiding it won’t prevent them from doing so. If a hacker is skilled enough to infect your device with fileless malware, they likely have the skills needed to find your hidden SSID as well.

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