What Is a Network SSID?

If you don’t know what an SSID is, or why you should even care, no problem! We’ll demystify SSID, and its related terms like BSSID.

If you’ve ever set up a wireless network, no doubt you’ve come across the term SSID. You likely realize an SSID is something important, but you might not know why.

Your Wi-Fi Network Name

Each Wi-Fi network needs a name. This name lets all of the wireless devices in your network communicate with one another through a wireless access point, the “hotspot” where your device connects to the system.

The SSID, or Service Set Identifier, is that name, a string of 32 characters often translated into a word or phrase for the sake of convenience. Each device in your network needs to share that name to stay connected. Your wireless access point broadcasts the SSID, your laptop picks it up and bingo, you’re on board.

So What about a BSSID? (Or, for That Matter, ESSID?)

The BSSID, or Basic SSID, is another string of characters that defines your basic network structure — one wireless access point and one or more Wi-Fi devices. This more basic name is taken to the next level of complexity to create your SSID, which allows for more multifaceted networking.

If you want more than one wireless access point, you can use an ESSID, or Extended Service Set Identifier. You should realize, though, that these terms are often used interchangeably, with SSID commonly used to describe all three situations.

Why Your SSID Is Important

The world is full of wireless networks, and in any given area there may be a dozen that overlap. Your SSID makes sure your wireless devices are connected to your network.

Which brings us to choosing your SSID. Often, your SSID will be pre-set by the manufacturer of your network infrastructure. Thus, your SSID might be linksys-g or something similar. Trouble may arise, however, if a neighboring business is using the same name.

In such a case, you may want to choose your own SSID to prevent network overlap, one that perhaps reflects your company name or type of business.

Network Security and Your SSID

Creating a unique SSID for your business will help avoid accidental overlap with neighboring networks. This can add a small degree of security to your network, but you shouldn’t rely on your SSID to keep you safe.

Even if your SSID is a secret, and even if you prevent your system from publicly broadcasting your SSID, hackers can use software to sniff out your network name and compromise your system. Critical information can thus fall into the wrong hands.

For better security, your business should implement network encryption capability, although even this might not keep out a determined hacker.

Using Multiple SSIDs

Another option for beefing up security is to use several SSIDs, a capability supported by much of the latest networking infrastructure. As such, you can use one SSID for open networking, in which the general public can access non-sensitive areas of your system, and another for internal processing of critical data. The appropriate level of security can thus be applied to each access point.

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