SHCC WYSIWYG Article from June 2013

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This article was written by Don VanSyckel, the club president, as a part of "The President's Pen".  This article appeared in the June 2013 WYSIWYG newsletter.

Home WiFi Setup

by Don VanSyckel

The SHCC WYSIWYG Web Watch author found an interesting article about security of wireless access points at the URL: 7-wireless-security-facts-protect-wi-fi-network/ . The quotes below are from this "Tech Blog" and this post was by "Peter R". The points Paul and I discussed were about the use of the SSID broadcast and the merits of hiding it. The SSID (service set identification) is the broadcast that a wireless access point does to announce it's name. If you turn off the SSID you do not disable the wireless functions, you merely stop the advertising of the name.

Normally the SSID is on. You turn on your PC and it shows you what networks it sees. You choose a network and connect, supplying a password as needed. If you are at a location, like home, where you have connected before, the PC will reconnect. Here's the part you might not know. If you connect your PC to a wireless access point and then later the SSID broadcast is disabled, the PC will connect the next time anyway. If the PC does not see a network it can connect to, the PC will hunt for the networks it knows about by broadcasting out looking for them. If one of these networks is there it will answer back and the PC will connect.

Many people believe if you hide the SSID you are protecting your network. The article claims hiding the SSID could do more harm than good. In my opinion the article did not make a case for this at all. The article did make a case that hiding the SSID is not absolute protection. This is because when a PC or other device comes along and connects to an access point with a hidden SSID, the access point's response to the device has the SSID (network name) in it. If a hacker is spying on that network the SSID can be read out of this response.

Let's think about this, to crack my access point if the SSID is hidden. 1) A hacker with the spying software has to be close to my house, basically parked in front of my house or the neighbor's. 2) The cracker has to wait until something that 'knows' about my access point connects to it. 3) Now that they have a name they still have to crack through the security. This is the same point the cracker would start at if the SSID were not hidden. So if a hacker has to go through two extra steps, my access point has more security. How much more we can debate. The SSID name is only exposed when a connection is made not during the use of the wireless connection. So if I connect once a night there is a 2 second exposure during a 24 hour period. I guess to be really secure I should peek out the front window and check for any unknown cars on the street before I have the PC connect. Note, when I talked about hackers I left out my neighbors on purpose. Your neighbors could be different.

So based on the above I have to disagree with the article and recommend that you hide the SSID of your home access point if you do not regularly have new devices connecting to it. If you do hide the SSID and want to have a new device connect, you will have to unhide the SSID while the new device connects. Once connected the SSID can be hidden again. You do not have to wait for the connection to be ended.

End of Article

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