Pinterest Stumbleupon Whatsapp
Advertisement

Wireless networks are inherently less secure — or at least more prone to being hacked — than wired networks. That’s simply the nature of a broadcast-based mode of communication: it’s much harder to hack into a router that requires you to physically plug in.

Which is why Wi-Fi security is such a hot topic. And one of the first things users typically want to do to secure their networks is hide their routers so that passersby won’t be able to see and/or connect to said networks.

In this post we’ll show you how to do that, but we’ll also explain why this may not be the best thing to do if security is your main concern.

Why Hide Your Wi-Fi Network?

A Quick SSID Intro

According to IEEE 802.11 standards, every wireless network must have an identifier that’s used by devices to connect to that network. This is called the Service Set Identifier (SSID), but don’t let the faux-complexity fool you. It basically means “network name”.

Every so often, routers broadcast something called a beacon frame. This is nothing more than a transmission that contains information about the network, including the SSID, and is meant to announce that this network exists. This is how your phone, for example, knows about all of the Wi-Fi networks around you. (Beacon frames are broadcasted about once every 100 milliseconds.)

Image Credit: MaluStudio via Shutterstock
Image Credit: MaluStudio via Shutterstock

Think of it as your router shouting out to the world, “Here I am! My name is Cisco04022! If you can hear me, you can use that name to initiate a connection with me!”

Advertisement

And if you were to stop your router from shouting all of that nonsense, you probably think your router would effectively become invisible. If a network doesn’t broadcast its presence, then devices won’t know about it, and therefore won’t be able to connect. Right?

Not quite.

The Limitations of SSID Hiding

Wireless signals are all the same: they start at a source (your router) and travel out in all directions (think of an ever-expanding sphere). There’s no way to “aim” a Wi-Fi transmission in a straight line from your router to your computer, and even if you could, you wouldn’t be able to stop the signal as soon as it reached its intended recipient — it’ll keep going.

Image Credit: Diego Schtutman via Shutterstock
Image Credit: Diego Schtutman via Shutterstock

Let’s assume that your wireless network is NOT broadcasting its SSID. Nobody knows it exists except you. You go ahead and establish a connection to it and start using Wi-Fi as normal. When you visit a website, for example, your router broadcasts a signal with that website’s data, and your computer receives it as the signal passes by. But the problem? This signal still has to travel through open air, which means anyone in its radius could intercept it.

In other words, even if your network stops broadcasting its SSID, hackers and malicious users can still find it by intercepting 1) your transmissions to the router and 2) your router’s transmissions to you.

How to Actually Secure Your Wi-Fi Network

All of this means that hiding your network is NOT an effective security measure — at best, it’s a deterrent that will only keep out the most tech-unsavvy of people. Someone who wants to hack into your network will still have other ways to get in.

Security by obscurity is not true security!

If you really want to secure your network, start with these quick and basic tips 7 Tips to Secure Your Wi-Fi Network in Minutes 7 Tips to Secure Your Wi-Fi Network in Minutes Is someone sniffing and eavesdropping on your Wi-Fi traffic, stealing your passwords and credit card numbers? Would you even know if somebody was? Probably not, so secure your wireless network with these 7 simple steps. Read More . We recommend doing all of them if you can, but if we absolutely had to recommend only three, then they would be:

  1. Change the default admin credentials. A quick search on the internet can reveal the default admin usernames and passwords for nearly any router brand and model combination. If you don’t change this, all other security settings are for naught. This should be the first thing you do with any router 10 Things You Must Do With a Brand New Router 10 Things You Must Do With a Brand New Router Whether you just bought your first ever router or upgraded your old one to a new one, there are several crucial first steps that you should take right away to set up properly. Read More !
  2. Encrypt using WPA2 and AES. Remember, your router is always broadcasting signals in all directions — but you can make these signals uninterceptable by encrypting them. Doing this, any signal meant for your computer will only be readable by your computer.
  3. Disable the WPS and UPnP features. These are convenience features that have lots of big security vulnerabilities, mainly the ability to circumvent other security features (like firewalls), so we recommend turning them off ASAP.

Again, we’ve only scratched the surface here. You’ll also want to explore these important router features everyone should be using 10 Crucial Features to Use in Your Wireless Router Setup at Home 10 Crucial Features to Use in Your Wireless Router Setup at Home Most wireless routers are equipped with a handful of amazing features that you probably aren't taking advantage of. Here are some of the more useful ones to start exploring right now. Read More for a better overall experience.

Steps to Hide Your Wi-Fi Network Anyway

Okay. You’ve gotten this far in the post and you still want to hide your SSID? That’s cool. We’ll show you how to do that — and you’ll be glad to know that it’s much easier than you’d expect.

Start by logging into your router’s admin panel. For me, this means going to 192.168.0.1 in my browser, but it may or may not be the same for you. For example, most Netgear users can reach it by going to routerlogin.net instead. Note that you may need a wired LAN connection to your router for the browser login to work.

Consult your router’s manual if you aren’t sure how to reach the admin panel. It should look something like this though:

wireless-router-admin-login

Next, look in the navigation bar for the Wireless section. If you have submenus, look around for something close to Wireless Settings, Wireless Options, Wireless > Basic Settings, etc.

You should be able to tweak the SSID, channel, channel mode, and channel width on the page, but the important thing is to find the option called Enable SSID Broadcast and uncheck it. Depending on your router model, it may also be called Visibility Status, Enable Hidden Wireless, or just SSID Broadcast:

wireless-router-disable-ssid-broadcast

That’s pretty much it. Save the settings, which may or may not require your router to restart, and your router will become “undetectable” to devices.

Other Tips for Your Home Wireless Network

When you’re setting a password for your network, make sure you pick one that’s strong — and this applies for both the admin password and the wireless connection password.

Stay on top of these common Wi-Fi router myths.

And if you have wireless dead zones or overall poor signal in your house or apartment, you may be able to solve your woes by getting a Wi-Fi extender or powerline adapter Wi-Fi Extenders vs. Powerline Adapters: How to Fix Poor Wireless Signals Wi-Fi Extenders vs. Powerline Adapters: How to Fix Poor Wireless Signals If your router's Wi-Fi signals are weak and unreliable and you can't seem to find a solution, the answer may lie in Wi-Fi extenders and/or powerline adapters. Read More .

Why do you want to hide your wireless network? Did this article answer your questions? Let us know in a comment below!

Originally written by Matt Smith on February 1, 2011

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *