What is an SSID? Few concepts are as important to the notion of wireless networking as the SSID. The SSID is what enables wireless connectivity to even occur in the first place. Now, it isn’t a consideration to keep in mind when looking at hard-wired networks. However, with wireless technology being so prevalent in both homes and businesses alike, the SSID is vital.
This guide will take a closer look at what the SSID actually is, why it is important, and some steps you can take to better secure your network. Believe it or not, the first step in cybersecurity in the home or at a small office starts with the first link in your network.
Defining the SSID
SSID is short of service set identifier. What this does is give a name and location to a wireless network. While most networks will have identifying marks, wireless networks have a different set of needs. You don’t have the luxury of plugging in an ethernet cable and going to the races.
As such, the SSID serves a vital purpose. It is what allows much of the modern world to function wirelessly. Now, do keep in mind this is solely for local wireless networks. There is a different set of standards and provisions for cellular networks and things like satellite internet access.
Wi-Fi as a whole would be far more difficult to accomplish without an SSID. It serves more purposes than just being a simple way of naming and identifying a network, as you will discover.
The Purpose of an SSID
One of the most important functions of an SSID is providing a means for a wireless network interface to connect to a network. The entire process of connecting is a rather complex network of handshakes, identification, and finally authorization. However, the short and narrow of it is that the SSID allows you to connect to a wireless network in the first place.
There can be security precautions in place, as is common in most households and businesses. However, that’s putting the cart before the horse. You’ll need to actually see any network before you can connect.
Without SSIDs in place, connecting to a wireless network would be a far more difficult task. Think about your home network for a moment. You likely are connecting with some sort of wireless device. When you go to actually make a connection on your phone or laptop, you’re likely looking for the name of your network.
That name is the SSID. It helps you to identify which wireless network is yours so you can actually access the web. It goes without saying, but this is a highly important function for any wireless network, the simple act of identification. Without SSIDs in place, you’d have a far more complicated process just to connect in the first place.
Why Are SSIDs Important?
Simply put, a wireless network is facilitated by the existence of an SSID. Every single element of a wireless network is rendered moot without some way for a client to connect. As such, they are a highly important aspect of any wireless network.
Much of the modern world relies on wireless connectivity. Could you imagine wireless networking without a simple and effective means of connecting? It would likely require some degree of expertise just to get all of your home electronics to see a home network. Having a set standard like the SSID enables people from all backgrounds to set up and administer their own networks.
Restricting Network Access
One of the other vital elements of the SSID comes down to restricting network access. Your router or gateway likely has some means of establishing a guest network. This is a great fit if you have visitors or you’re running a small business like a coffee shop. Visitors might want the ability to access the internet for things like checking their email, doing work, or some other typical task.
You can use the core functions of an SSID to restrict the flow of traffic. Users can be routed to a gateway where they accept their terms of service. You can set things like the usage time, the allowed bandwidth, and so forth. Restricting network access also helps to keep hackers out of your network.
Securing an SSID
Your network is only as secure as its weakest elements. Thankfully, there are ways to safeguard your network through the SSID by itself. Of course, you’ll likely want to implement other changes like firewalls and good browsing practices.
One of the first steps to securing your wireless network is to enable some form of encryption. Common forms in 2023 are WPA2 and WPA3, with the latter being strongly preferred. These provide a good first step towards making sure unwanted visitors aren’t allowed to use your network in the first place.
Do keep in mind when enabling encryption and a passkey that you’ll need to disable WPS. WPS is a quick way to enter some basic details to gain access to your wireless network. This can seem handy at first glance, but it takes a hacker just a second to look up the default WPS PIN for a given router.
You’ve no doubt seen some of the funnier SSID names out there. Joke names are a great way to personalize your network, but it doesn’t do much in the way of security. Longer and randomly generated SSID names are a great way to increase overall security on your network. This makes it much more difficult to enter the name of a network to probe around for vulnerabilities.
It might make it more difficult for you to enter as well, but you’re likely not looking for points of entry on your router as a whole. While this practice can seem a bit silly in itself, you want to make it inconvenient for your network to be accessed by unwanted guests in the first place.
Most commercially available allow you to hide the SSID of your home or business network. This can be a fine practice, as it makes it more difficult for the layperson to even know there is a wireless signal present. However, this isn’t a surefire method of preventing intrusions. Most hacker software suites will have a way to sniff out wireless network traffic.
You’ll want to use this practice in conjunction with the other aforementioned security measures to make it more difficult to get access. Hiding the network and leaving off encryption or a more complex name is just going to make it a matter of finding the wireless signal and brute-forcing the SSID in the first place.
Guest networks serve a variety of different purposes. You can use them to lockdown access to your network resources as a whole. They are a more common practice for business networks, as they allow network admins to set policies and other restrictions on new users.
In your home, you could certainly use this as a method of preventing access to the more open private network. However, that is going to depend entirely on your needs and wants. This can be a good safeguard if you have some technical know-how in setting up whitelists and such. However, for those without networking knowledge, you might want to avoid it altogether.
Are SSIDs Important for Modern Networking?
Are SSIDs important for modern networking? As a whole, absolutely, they are a key and vital element in how people access wireless networks. It is hard to imagine a world without the prevalence of the SSID as a method of accessing wireless networks. Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about that, as this particular standard is here to stay.
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