If you are considering disabling SSID broadcasting on a wireless router, you must understand the real security issues that arise here.
If you turn off SSID broadcast, indeed, the network name will not be displayed when someone searches for available networks with a standard wireless adapter.
However, this does not hide the network itself. With the right software or hardware, anyone can “see” your network and connect to it as usual with a network ID and password.
In this article, you will learn how SSID broadcasting works, how people can connect to “hidden” networks, and finally how to disable SSID broadcasting on their router. If you want to see how to turn off SSID broadcast, scroll down to the last section of this article.
How does router SSID work
When you first turn on your wireless router, most routers are configured by default to broadcast the name of your wireless network. This is known as the Service Set Identifier or SSID.
The standard wireless adapter and associated software will recognize and list all available SSIDs for networks within range.
When someone turns off the SSID broadcast on any of these networks, the network will no longer appear in the list of available networks on the wireless adapter.
For example, if the router is configured so that the above network named Netgear61-5G no longer broadcasts its SSID, that network will not show up when someone scans for available networks.
This is only because when you turn off SSID broadcasting, the SSID changes to NULL, which will not appear in any list of available networks.
This does not mean that the network is not available, it just means that the identifier is not being broadcast.
If you really want to block access to your network, stop here and read our guide to preventing strangers from using your Wi-Fi network.
How can people see networks with disabled SSID
The 802.11 standard for wireless networks requires the router that manages the wireless network to send “control beacon packets” that provide basic information about the Wi-Fi network. Routers send it regardless of whether they broadcast the SSID for the network.
There are free and paid software packages that anyone can get that can not only see Wi-Fi networks that don’t have an SSID, but can also identify the SSID quite easily.
The program can “see” these management packs and thus identify the available networks, not by SSID. It can also connect to the network, either by trying to establish an initial connection to obtain the SSID, or by intercepting packets from other clients. When a network with a disabled SSID responds to any queries, these responses include the network SSID name.
Tip: Enabling Wi-Fi encryption can help protect against this kind of unwanted packet sniffing.
Different monitoring applications have different levels of capability. One example of free software that lets you see if there are hidden networks nearby is NetSpot
You can see networks that do not broadcast their SSIDs in the list that appears when the application starts. They are identified with the hidden SSID specified in the SSID field.
Other free tools like WifiInfoView take it a step further. You can not only view hidden networks, but also connect to them.
When you launch WifiInfoView, you will see a similar list of networks. You can even right click on hidden networks and connect to them.
You still need to know the network password to connect, but not having an SSID will not prevent you from trying to connect.
Other software applications that allow people to see Wi-Fi networks that do not broadcast SSIDs include:
How to disable broadcast SSID on your router
If you still want to disable SSID broadcast on your router, it only takes a few steps. Before you can do that, you need to know how to connect to your router using your administrator password.
To get the IP address of your router’s network, open a Windows command prompt, type ipconfig / all and press Enter.
Scroll down all the information you get until you see the default gateway IP address.
Open a web browser, enter this IP address (in this example 192.168.0.1) in the URL field and press Enter. You will be taken to the router login screen where you will need to login using the administrator password.
If you have never changed your administrator password, this will be the default administrator password, which you can find on your router.
Note. If you are using the default password, it is recommended that you change it to better protect your Wi-Fi network.
We change my genes
After you log into your router, you will need to find the Wireless menu to change the SSID broadcast setting.
In Netgear Genie, you will find this under the General tab. Select the Wireless menu and then deselect the Enable SSID Broadcast check box for the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz network you want to hide.
For the changes to take effect, you will need to select “Apply” at the top of the page.
On other Netgear routers, this can be found under the Advanced tab by selecting Wireless Options and unchecking the Enable SSID Broadcast check box. (On older Netgear routers, this might be Enable Wireless Router Radio).
Disable SSID Broadcast to Other Routers
Disable broadcast SSID to other routers
The procedure for doing this varies from router to router. On other routers, follow the procedure below for the router that matches yours.
- Linksys: Select Wireless and Basic Wireless Options from the menu. Set SSID Broadcast to Disabled. You will need to do this for both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.
- D-Link: Select Setup and Wireless Settings from the menus. Then select Manual Wireless Setup and set Visibility Status to Invisible. Alternatively, you can select Enable Wireless Hidden. Select “Save Settings” to make changes. (On older D-Link routers, you will need to disable the Wireless Radio button in the Wireless menu.)
- Belkin: Select Wireless from the left menu, then select Channel and SSID. Uncheck the box next to Broadcast SSID.
If none of these instructions work for your router, or if your router model is not listed here, refer to your router manual. You can find and download it from the manufacturer’s website.