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Your service set identifier (SSID) 101: What it is and what it’s used for 

The term service set identifier (SSID) refers to the identifier for wireless networks. Essentially, an SSID is the name assigned to a Wi-Fi network when setting up the router. This allows Wi-Fi-enabled devices to recognize the network and establish a connection. Read on to learn exactly how this process works and how to find out your SSID. You’ll also discover how to protect your network against unauthorized access with Avira Phantom VPN. 


What is an SSID? 

In basic terms, the service set identifier (SSID) refers to the name of a Wi-Fi network — be it a public or private home one. The router uses the SSID, which can be up to 32 characters long, to broadcast its hotspot. The identifier acts as an access point for Wi-Fi-enabled devices so they can find the network and connect to it. 

When users try to connect to a hotspot, they’ll see a list of available networks on their device. The SSID helps identify the specific network you want to connect to. You often save the identifier on your device so it can connect to the hotspot again automatically. 

Important to know: The SSID only acts as an identifier and doesn’t itself provide any security from dodgy hackers. That’s where WPA2 or WPA3 come into play on networks. These protocols ensure that users need to know the password or key for the hotspot before they can connect to it. 

How can I find my Wi-Fi SSID? 

A new network usually still uses the default SSID, which is located on a sticker on the back or base of the router. It usually includes the manufacturer or model name of the device such as NETGEAR48 or TP-LINK-3975. However, if the network name has been customized, users can identify the SSID using a Wi-Fi-enabled device.  

  • Known network: If you’re connected to a hotspot you know, open your device’s Wi-Fi settings. In the settings, you can then read the name of the network to which your device is currently connected. If you have a new device like a laptop and don’t know your SSID, you can connect your device to your router using an Ethernet cable. 
  • Unknown network: With friends and want to connect your device to their Wi-Fi network? If your device doesn’t know the network, it’s best to ask your friends for the SSID and password. The same applies to password-protected hotspots in public spaces such as hotels or cafés. 

What should I do if I can’t see the network? 

Sometimes, you may not be able to see the SSID you’re looking for in the list of available networks. There are different reasons for this: 

  • Hidden SSID: Owners can set up their network so that it’s invisible to the public.
  • Beyond the router’s range: The device is outside the router’s range, so can’t connect to it.
  • Defective router: If the router is defective, it cannot broadcast its SSID. This means it remains invisible to other devices.
  • Broken network adapter: The network adapter of the internet-enabled device might be broken, or it could sometimes be simply switched off. 

Usually, users can fix such issues themselves. First, check whether the SSID is actually hidden. If it isn’t, restart the router and move closer to it. Also check your device to see if the Wi-Fi feature is turned on. 

If that still doesn’t help, you can reset the router to its factory settings so it resorts to broadcasting its default SSID. You’ll then be able to see your network and you can connect your device to it. 

What happens if multiple networks have the same SSID? 

Most manufacturers assign their routers a default SSID. It is located on a sticker on the router and is required to set it up. If you don’t change the SSID, you might find that several networks have the same name, especially in apartment buildings. 

The downside of that is that users may accidentally try to connect to an unknown hotspot. However, because they don’t know the password, they can’t connect. If two networks use both the same name and password, most devices will connect automatically to the network with the strongest signal. 

To avoid confusion, it’s a good idea to change the default SSID. This also reduces the risk of cybercriminals finding out the make and model of your router and hacking it. If malicious actors gain access to your network, they can infect the router with malware or forward connected users to unsafe websites and spy on what they get up to online. 

Step-by-step guide to changing your SSID 

To avoid confusion in the neighborhood and increase the security of your network, we recommend changing your SSID. If you want to set a new SSID, you have to use your router’s configuration interface. To do this, you need the router’s IP address and an internet-enabled device. Here’s how: 

  1. Look for the IP address: Identify your router’s IP address. You can usually find this on a sticker on the device. 
  2. Establish a network connection: Use an internet-enabled device such as a laptop or smartphone and connect to the network. 
  3. Open a browser: Open a window in an internet browser and enter the router’s web interface address. You’ll find that on the device. 
  4. Enter your log-in details: Enter your administrator credentials. As a rule, the default values can be found on the router. 
  5. Open the settings: Go to the router’s Wi-Fi settings and look for the SSID field. The standard SSID should be stored there. 
  6. Change the SSID: Enter your preferred network name and save the change. 

Within a few minutes, the new SSID should appear in the list of available networks on your Wi-Fi enabled devices. You may have to refresh the list several times before the new name appears. Occasionally the old and new SSID names appear at the same time — but only temporarily. In this case, refresh the list again. 

By the way: You can also split your SSID. This means splitting your wireless network into several separate networks, each with their own name and password. Doing so allows you to limit the number of devices on each network and increase your internet speed. 

Customize network names 

Setting a new SSID and password is often not enough to protect yourself from hacker attacks. That’s because cybercriminals can employ brute force attacks to gain access to the network and steal personal information. This involves them using computers that try every possible combination of username and password until they gain access. This makes it critical that you customize the SSID of your network so it doesn’t give anything away about you. 

As such, never name your network after yourself, such as “John’s home network”. Instead, give it a memorable name so you can easily identify it in the list of available networks. You could also be more creative and choose a fun name like “Winona Router”. Also set a strong password that includes a mix of lower and upper case letters as well as numbers and special characters. Cybercriminals will then have a really tough time trying to figure out your password. 

Can hackers take advantage of SSIDs? 

In public spaces, cybercriminals can set up fake Wi-Fi networks with an SSID that closely resembles a legitimate network. This can trick unsuspecting users into connecting to the fake network. Once users connect to this fake hotspot, hackers can track what they do online or forward them to infected websites. 

This type of manipulation occurs more frequently in public spaces such as airports, cafés, or restaurants. That’s because users often expect they’re accessing a free and secure Wi-Fi hotspot. To minimise this risk of SSIDs being taken advantage of, legitimate institutions set unique SSID names and also require a password before connecting. 

How can I secure my Wi-Fi network? 

The SSID alone doesn’t protect your Wi-Fi network from unauthorised access. That’s why most users set up WPA2 encryption when configuring their router for increased security. This involves them setting a key, or password, so users then need both the SSID and the password to connect. 

You’ll also need to generate a strong password to protect users who connect to the Wi-Fi hotspot from hackers. That’s because a network without WPA2 encryption poses the risk that third parties can intercept all user communications on the network — including sensitive information such as online banking details. 

By the way: With Avira Password Manager, you get a smart solution that allows you to generate and manage super strong passwords. Only you have access to the tool, so others cannot snoop on your log-in credentials. All you need to do is remember a single master password to access your saved log-in details. 


Is it worth hiding the network name? 

When you set up your router, you can hide your SSID. To do this, turn off SSID transmission in the router settings. Even if your network is not publicly visible, hackers can track your traffic because your IP address isn’t hidden. Therefore, hiding your SSID isn’t a robust security measure. 

Security tips for your home network 

In addition to customizing your SSID and using a strong password, you can take other steps to boost your digital security. One of them is using a VPN (virtual private network) when connected to your router. This encrypts your data traffic so others can’t spy on what you get up to online, protecting you from prying eyes. 

Avira Phantom VPN routes your internet activity through a secure tunnel. It doesn’t matter then whether you’re connected to your home network or a public Wi-Fi hotspot, as neither hackers nor other third parties can access this encrypted data traffic. With a VPN and customized SSID, you’ll be able to surf the internet more securely and anonymously. 


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Avira, a company with over 100 million customers and more than 500 employees, is a worldwide leading supplier of self-developed security solutions for professional and private use. With more than 25 years of experience, the company is a pioneer in its field.
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Surf more anonymously and securely both at home and on the go with a customized SSID and Avira Phantom VPN.

Avira logo

Surf more anonymously and securely both at home and on the go with a customized SSID and Avira Phantom VPN.

Avira logo

Surf more securely and privately on the go with Avira Phantom VPN — even when on a public Wi-Fi hotspot.

Avira logo

Surf more securely and privately on the go with Avira Phantom VPN — even when on a public Wi-Fi hotspot.