wireless - Should I broadcast my SSID?

Posted on 2011-09-27
Last Modified: 2012-05-12
Ive read various documents that claim its actually more of a security risk to not broadcast your SSID since clients that were previously associated will send out sensitive data while trying to rejoin?
We havent broadcasted our corporate SSID for the past few years but we are going through a large upgrade and Im thinking it might be time to make the change.  I also noticed that Windows 7 still see SSID's that arent broadcast, though labels them as "unknown network" or something similar.

Just wondering your thoughts on whether or not I should broadcast our corporate SSID or leave it non-visible?  Thanks
Question by:CAITMAN
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Accepted Solution

JWong007 earned 32 total points
ID: 36710227

This article from Steve Riley is an excellent article regarding the myth vs. reality of broadcasting your SSID.  This is an older article, but I find the principles still apply.  I think you'll find it useful.
LVL 88

Assisted Solution

rindi earned 31 total points
ID: 36710305
In my point of view hiding SSID's will only fool the casual User who doesn't really have any criminal intent. Anyone who wants to crack your Wireless LAN or tries to gain data from users will hardly have any trouble finding the SSID. So there isn't really much to gain in hiding them. If anything it'll make it more attractive for potential hackers as he'll suspect you have something to hide. From my knowledge though, clients can send out sensitive whether the AP is hidden or not. So to really make wireless connections secure you need a strong encryption, at least some form of WPA, and if you use WPA Personal, a very long and complex passphrase that can't be found in any dictionary.

Author Comment

ID: 36710461
Thanks for the advice.
We do use WPA2 and 802.1x to secure the wireless.  Im thinking its more trouble than its worth to HIDE the SSID. I just wanted to get some feedback from others that are managing corporate wireless. Thanks

Assisted Solution

NetWORXmi earned 31 total points
ID: 36710748
I would tend to agree with leaving it broadcast in a "busy" enviroment- such as other office near by with wireless, and using the stronger encryption as the first time they conenct, if not done by the IT staff, they may connect to a "simular" rouge AP and spit out the encryption key to it if they did not notice the minor spelling change- maybe one that makes it just above the legit one? Even an IT staff that has multiple projects going at once might miss that.
LVL 26

Assisted Solution

by:Fred Marshall
Fred Marshall earned 31 total points
ID: 36711002
I think that NetWORXmi made a pretty good argument for NOT broadcasting the SSID.  You can't hook up to the "simular" network if you don't expect to see your network on the list in the first place!!  This also argues for using a complex name.  Names like Linksys, DLink, etc. make it dangerous for your folks who might travel outside the building.  They just might "automatically" connect to one of those.  Of course, security helps prevent that but nonetheless it's good practice.

While not  a security feature by itself (it's a bit like using a hook on your screen door) it makes things just one bit more difficult and it will keep out the lazy but curious snoopers.  I don't agree that "security by obscurity is no security at all".  If you hide behind a bush while the mugger walks past then obscurity did it's job of providing security.  But, if you are unarmed and he is looking right around the area for you then, of course, your security is compromised and hiding behind the bush likely won't help.  Same idea.

It's called "defense in depth".  Every added difficulty helps.  Just don't rely on any one added difficulty.

WPA/WPA2 are crackable by brute force methods so use a random 63-character, 504-bit passphrase.  It has to be pasted into the client setups but it makes cracking unlikely (one might say impossible).

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