Service Set Identifier (SSID)
What Is Service Set Identifier (SSID)?
A service set identifier (SSID) is a unique identifier that allows devices to connect to a Wi-Fi network. The SSID differentiates between multiple Wi-Fi networks in an area so users can connect to the right one. For example, at a coffee shop, the SSID might be something like "Coffee Shop Wi-Fi."
In addition to the SSID, users also need the correct password to connect to a Wi-Fi network. Once these have been entered, the device can start using the network.
How Does SSID Work?
The SSID is broadcast by the router or access point (AP) and is sent out in what is called a "beacon." The beacon is a special type of management frame in IEEE 802.11-based wireless local-area networks (WLANs) and is transferred at regular intervals by the router. Any device within range of the beacon can see the SSID.
When connecting to a wireless network, a computer will look for the SSID, and once it finds it, it will then attempt to connect to the network using the password provided.
Why Do Enterprises Need SSID?
For enterprises, an SSID improves the internet access experience. With an SSID, they can segment their wireless network traffic and provide different levels of access to resources for various users. This can help reduce congestion on the network and improve security by preventing unauthorized access to sensitive data.
An SSID also enables businesses to manage their wireless networks more effectively. By segmenting the network into different SSIDs, enterprises can more easily monitor and troubleshoot network issues.
What Is SSID: How to Find the SSID on Different Devices
To connect to a Wi-Fi network, users have to first find the SSID. Here are a few ways to do that on different devices:
The router's SSID is usually located on the back or bottom of the router. It is often printed on a label along with the password and other information about the network.
On a Windows computer, users will find the SSID by clicking on the wireless signal button, which is normally located at the bottom-right corner of the screen. Windows will present a list of networks, and the SSID should have "Connect" next to it.
With macOS, go to the menu bar and click on the "Wi-Fi" icon to view the list of networks. From this list, the SSID is identified with a check mark.
Go to the apps menu and click on "Settings." The Wi-Fi option will appear, and the SSID you are connected to has "Connected" or a blue tick next to it.
On an iOS device, select "Settings" and then click on "Wi-Fi." From the list of networks presented, the SSID is the one with a check mark.
Is SSID the Same as IP Address?
No, SSID is not the same as an Internet Protocol (IP) address. While both are used to identify devices on a network, they serve different purposes.
An SSID identifies a wireless network, and devices on a wireless network must use the same SSID to communicate with one another. An IP address is a unique numerical address assigned to each device on a network and is used to route data among devices on a network.
Problems Associated with SSIDs
SSIDs Can Be Changed
If the administrator of a wireless network changes the SSID, then all the users will have to update their devices with the new SSID. Otherwise, they will be unable to connect to the network. This can be a major inconvenience for users.
SSIDs Are Not Secure
Because SSIDs are usually broadcast publicly, anyone within the range of the wireless network can see the SSID. This makes it easy for hackers to target a particular network.
Best Practices to Broadcast SSIDs
Although SSIDs come with limitations, they are widely used because they are the simplest way to identify a particular wireless network. Here are some of the best practices for broadcasting SSIDs:
- Each AP should have at most three SSIDs enabled.
- Band-steering, which is a feature that automatically connects users to the best available frequency band, should be enabled for each SSID.
- APs should not be on the same wireless channels if their coverage zones overlap.
- Each SSID should be set up to identify a different virtual LAN (VLAN). A VLAN combines groups of devices in multiple networks into one logical network.
- Each SSID should have legacy bit rates disabled.
- SSID should only be enabled on an AP when necessary.
SSID vs. BSSID vs. ESSID
SSID, basic service set identifier (BSSID), and extended service set identifier (ESSID) describe sections of a wireless network and can all be used to identify a particular network. Although they may sound similar, they each have different meanings.
- BSSID: BSSID is typically the Media access control (MAC) address of the wireless access point (WAP) or router providing the wireless network.
- SSID: SSID is the name of a particular wireless network and is typically included in the beacon frames that are broadcast by the WAP or router.
- ESSID: ESSID is typically included in the probe request and probe response frames that are exchanged between devices on the network.
How SSID Is Used in Cyberattacks
An SSID can be used by hackers to launch a cyberattack in several ways, such as:
- Impersonate a legitimate network and trick users into connecting to it: Once connected, the hacker can then intercept and collect data passing through the network.
- Brute force their way into a network: By trying to connect with different passwords, they can eventually find the right one and gain access to the network.
- Launch a denial-of-service (DoS) attack: In this type of attack, the hacker sends a large number of requests to the WAP. This overloads the WAP and prevents legitimate users from connecting to the network.
Here are some measures to secure your SSID:
- Use WPA2 encryption: Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) is the most current and secure form of wireless encryption, so make sure your router is using it. If your router is using an older form of encryption, like Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), malicious actors can more easily gain access to your network.
- Use a strong password: To access your wireless network, users need to know the password. Therefore, use a strong, difficult-to-guess password that is at least eight characters long and includes a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Enable Media access control (MAC) filtering: MAC filtering is a feature that allows users to specify which devices can connect to a wireless network. By only allowing access to known devices, you can keep out anyone who should not be there.
- Keep your router up to date: Like any other piece of technology, it is important to keep your router up to date with the latest firmware. Router manufacturers regularly release updates that can help improve security and fix any known vulnerabilities, so always check for updates and install them as soon as they are available.
How Fortinet Can Help?
The Fortinet Secure Wireless LAN can protect your network from a variety of threats, including SSID stripping and spoofing. Aside from MAC filtering, it offers various features, such as:
- Wireless intrusion prevention system (WIPS): WIPS scans for unauthorized wireless devices and then prevents them from connecting. In some cases, it simply blocks the device from accessing the network. In other cases, it sends an alert to network administrators so further action can be taken.
- Wireless intrusion detection system (WIDS): WIDS consists of sensors placed throughout the network. These sensors monitor the airwaves for suspicious activity and raise an alarm if they detect any unauthorized access attempt.
- Access control lists (ACLs): An ACL is a list of permissions that specifies who is allowed to access what resources. It can be used to restrict access to specific parts of a system or perform certain operations, such as changing system configuration settings.
- Wireless traffic analysis: This monitors and inspects data traveling through a wireless network to monitor network activity, identify security vulnerabilities, or troubleshoot networking issues.
What is a service set identifier?
A service set identifier (SSID) is a unique identifier assigned to a wireless network. It allows devices on the network to identify and connect to the correct network. Most SSIDs are case-sensitive and can be up to 32 characters long.
How does SSID work?
The SSID is broadcast by the router or access point (AP) and is sent out in what is called a "beacon." The beacon is a special type of management frame in IEEE 802.11-based wireless local-area networks (WLANs) and is transferred at regular intervals by the router.