How does hiding the 802.11 SSID offer any security at all?

Discussion in 'Wireless Networking' started by barb, Aug 6, 2006.

  1. barb

    barb Guest

    Does hiding the SSID broadcase really offer any wireless protection?

    I read with interest an article that says to turn off the broadcast of your
    SSID. Guess what? My two-computer home wireless network stopped working as
    soon as I booted one of WinXP PCs with the Linksys router turned off.

    To recover, I had to go through the entire setup process all over again
    just to get the WinXP Wireless Zero Service to again understand the SSID.

    What is going on?
    Is it really feasible to turn off the broadcast of the SSID?
    Or is it so much BS from folks who need to write something to stay in
    business?

    Is there any way to tell the WinXP PC to look for a certain SSID that isn't
    broadcast without having to reconfigure the router every single time?

    Confused,
    barb
    barb, Aug 6, 2006
    #1
    1. Advertising

  2. No, disabling the broadcast of your network SSID offers little to no
    security and may cause connectivity issues as you discovered. Your much
    better off using proper security measures like...

    ....encrypting your network with a strong WPA2 or WPA key

    ....changing the SSID to a unique and easily identifiable one

    ....changing the wireless access points default admin password to a strong
    password

    Personally I broadcast my unique network SSID and use WPA-PSK (AES) with a
    63-character random ASCII key to encrypt my home wireless network...

    http://www.kurtm.net/wpa-pskgen/

    If you can't use WPA2/WPA then at a minimum use 128-bit WEP...

    http://www.warewolflabs.com/portfolio/programming/wlanskg/wlanskg.html

    Here are some articles of interest regarding the non-broadcast of your
    network SSID...

    http://www.microsoft.com/technet/itsolutions/network/evaluate/hiddennet.mspx

    http://support.microsoft.com/kb/811427/en-us

    http://support.microsoft.com/kb/907405/en-us

    http://www.broadbandreports.com/faq/11468

    http://www.dslreports.com/faq/10907

    --
    Al Jarvi (MS-MVP Windows Networking)

    Please post *ALL* questions and replies to the news group for the
    mutual benefit of all of us...
    The MS-MVP Program - http://mvp.support.microsoft.com
    This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no
    rights...


    "barb" <> wrote in message
    news:k2tnvjnj0e3i$.gxcpphf7upj1$...
    > Does hiding the SSID broadcase really offer any wireless protection?
    >
    > I read with interest an article that says to turn off the broadcast of
    > your
    > SSID. Guess what? My two-computer home wireless network stopped working as
    > soon as I booted one of WinXP PCs with the Linksys router turned off.
    >
    > To recover, I had to go through the entire setup process all over again
    > just to get the WinXP Wireless Zero Service to again understand the SSID.
    >
    > What is going on?
    > Is it really feasible to turn off the broadcast of the SSID?
    > Or is it so much BS from folks who need to write something to stay in
    > business?
    >
    > Is there any way to tell the WinXP PC to look for a certain SSID that
    > isn't
    > broadcast without having to reconfigure the router every single time?
    >
    > Confused,
    > barb
    Sooner Al [MVP], Aug 6, 2006
    #2
    1. Advertising

  3. barb

    barb Guest

    On Sun, 06 Aug 2006 11:54:38 GMT, barb wrote:
    > Is there any way to tell the WinXP PC to look for a certain SSID that isn't
    > broadcast without having to reconfigure the router every single time?


    Here is an O'Reilly article that says to hide your SSID and to change your
    broadcast channel for added security.
    http://www.windowsdevcenter.com/pub/a/windows/2005/04/19/WiFiHacks.html

    Is this snake oil?

    For example, as I already stated, if I change my SSID and then boot up
    without the router powered on, there is no way (that I know of) to tell my
    WinXP wireless applet the SSID (or am I missing something).

    Likewise, if I were to change my channel, I mean how many channels are
    there? Wouldn't anyone who wanted to get onto my network just scroll down
    to the next channel? Are there an infinite number of channels or a finite
    number of channels?

    All this seems like snake oil to me.

    QUESTION 1:
    Once I stop broadcasting my SSID, how do I tell WinXP to use that SSID?

    QUESTION 2:
    If I change my channel, how long would it take a hacker to figure out
    which channel I changed it to?

    Thanks in advance for your advice,
    barb
    barb, Aug 6, 2006
    #3
  4. barb

    barb Guest

    On Sun, 6 Aug 2006 07:11:48 -0500, Sooner Al [MVP] wrote:
    > Disabling the broadcast of your network SSID offers little to no
    > security and may cause connectivity issues as you discovered.


    Hi Sooner Al,

    Wow. That was quick. I didn't even see my post posted when I saw your
    reply. Since I lost my connection the minute I booted with the router off,
    and since I had to reconnect with the wire, log into the router, change the
    settings to broadcast the SSID, then connect with the Windows XP computer,
    then log back into the router, change the settings back to not broadcast
    the SSID, and only then did I get back to where I started. Whew.

    Are we the only ones who read these so-called security hints and say "I
    don't know what I'm talking about but the guys who write these articles
    know even less than I do".

    barb
    barb, Aug 6, 2006
    #4
  5. barb

    barb Guest

    On Sun, 6 Aug 2006 07:11:48 -0500, Sooner Al [MVP] wrote:
    > You're much better off using proper security measures like...
    > ...encrypting your network with a strong WPA2 or WPA key


    If I have one older computer which doesn't support WPA (only WEP) and one
    newer computer which does support WPA and a router which does support WPA,
    can I use WPA?

    I thought we had to have all home computers on the same "standard"
    encryption which means only WEP would work in my home network due to the
    older computer.

    Am I wrong?
    Can I use WEP on one computer and WPA on the other?

    barb
    barb, Aug 6, 2006
    #5
  6. In comp.security.firewalls barb <> wrote:
    > Does hiding the SSID broadcase really offer any wireless protection?


    No.

    cu
    59cobalt
    --
    "All vulnerabilities deserve a public fear period prior to patches
    becoming available."
    --Jason Coombs on Bugtraq
    Ansgar -59cobalt- Wiechers, Aug 6, 2006
    #6
  7. barb

    Jeff Prater Guest

    barb wrote:
    > On Sun, 6 Aug 2006 07:11:48 -0500, Sooner Al [MVP] wrote:
    >> You're much better off using proper security measures like...
    >> ...encrypting your network with a strong WPA2 or WPA key

    >
    > If I have one older computer which doesn't support WPA (only WEP) and one
    > newer computer which does support WPA and a router which does support WPA,
    > can I use WPA?
    >
    > I thought we had to have all home computers on the same "standard"
    > encryption which means only WEP would work in my home network due to the
    > older computer.
    >
    > Am I wrong?
    > Can I use WEP on one computer and WPA on the other?
    >
    > barb

    no. either update the drivers to the wep pc or just use wep. if your
    card cannot support wpa, then purchase a new wireless card.
    Jeff Prater, Aug 6, 2006
    #7
  8. barb

    Jeff Prater Guest

    barb wrote:
    > On Sun, 6 Aug 2006 07:11:48 -0500, Sooner Al [MVP] wrote:
    >> You're much better off using proper security measures like...
    >> ...encrypting your network with a strong WPA2 or WPA key

    >
    > If I have one older computer which doesn't support WPA (only WEP) and one
    > newer computer which does support WPA and a router which does support WPA,
    > can I use WPA?
    >
    > I thought we had to have all home computers on the same "standard"
    > encryption which means only WEP would work in my home network due to the
    > older computer.
    >
    > Am I wrong?
    > Can I use WEP on one computer and WPA on the other?
    >
    > barb

    no. either update the drivers to the wep pc, purchase a wireless nic
    which supports wpa, or just use wep.
    Jeff Prater, Aug 6, 2006
    #8
  9. barb

    barb Guest

    On Sun, 06 Aug 2006 08:26:50 -0400, Jeff Prater wrote:
    >> Can I use WEP on one computer and WPA on the other?

    > no. either update the drivers to the wep pc or just use wep. if your
    > card cannot support wpa, then purchase a new wireless card.


    I don't have a wireless card, per se. It's built in. I tried setting up WPA
    and it said the card doesn't support it.

    Is there a definitive way to test if a wireless card supports WPA?

    barb
    barb, Aug 6, 2006
    #9
  10. barb

    barb Guest

    On 6 Aug 2006 12:24:21 GMT, Ansgar -59cobalt- Wiechers wrote:
    >> Does hiding the SSID broadcase really offer any wireless protection?

    > No.


    Likewise with limiting to the known MAC IDs.

    Couldn't a hacker simply sniff out the MAC ID used in every packet and
    simply spoof that MAC ID?

    barb
    barb, Aug 6, 2006
    #10
  11. Changing your channel does nothing for security. Changing your channel *AND*
    broadcasting your SSID may keep others from causing interference, and the
    resulting connectivity issues, with your wireless access point.

    For example channels 1, 6, and 11 will not interfere with other channels
    like 3, 4, 5, etc. The default for many wireless access points is channel 6.
    When I moved into our new home last month I did a quick site survey using
    NetStumbler to find out what channels my neighbors were using. I walked
    around a two block area near my home and deiced to use channel 1 since only
    one other neighbor was using that channel and they were almost two blocks
    away.

    http://theillustratednetwork.mvps.org/ScreenShots/Netstumbler/Neighborhood_Survey07262006.JPG

    My network is "N42RF" in the illustration. My immediate neighbor is
    "sstehno". Note that NetStumbler does not show WPA only WEP for encrypted
    networks. That is a function of the program...

    I have no connectivity issues at all with my two wireless clients, ie. a
    laptop and a desktop...

    http://theillustratednetwork.mvps.org/LAN/TheIllustratedNetworkLAN.htm

    --
    Al Jarvi (MS-MVP Windows Networking)

    Please post *ALL* questions and replies to the news group for the
    mutual benefit of all of us...
    The MS-MVP Program - http://mvp.support.microsoft.com
    This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no
    rights...


    "barb" <> wrote in message
    news:zbfxegh22fwu.a68z6yt6x4bx$...
    > On Sun, 06 Aug 2006 11:54:38 GMT, barb wrote:
    >> Is there any way to tell the WinXP PC to look for a certain SSID that
    >> isn't
    >> broadcast without having to reconfigure the router every single time?

    >
    > Here is an O'Reilly article that says to hide your SSID and to change your
    > broadcast channel for added security.
    > http://www.windowsdevcenter.com/pub/a/windows/2005/04/19/WiFiHacks.html
    >
    > Is this snake oil?
    >
    > For example, as I already stated, if I change my SSID and then boot up
    > without the router powered on, there is no way (that I know of) to tell my
    > WinXP wireless applet the SSID (or am I missing something).
    >
    > Likewise, if I were to change my channel, I mean how many channels are
    > there? Wouldn't anyone who wanted to get onto my network just scroll down
    > to the next channel? Are there an infinite number of channels or a finite
    > number of channels?
    >
    > All this seems like snake oil to me.
    >
    > QUESTION 1:
    > Once I stop broadcasting my SSID, how do I tell WinXP to use that SSID?
    >
    > QUESTION 2:
    > If I change my channel, how long would it take a hacker to figure out
    > which channel I changed it to?
    >
    > Thanks in advance for your advice,
    > barb
    >
    Sooner Al [MVP], Aug 6, 2006
    #11
  12. barb

    barb Guest

    On Sun, 06 Aug 2006 12:35:30 GMT, barb wrote:

    > On 6 Aug 2006 12:24:21 GMT, Ansgar -59cobalt- Wiechers wrote:
    >>> Does hiding the SSID broadcase really offer any wireless protection?

    >> No.

    >
    > Likewise with limiting to the known MAC IDs.
    >
    > Couldn't a hacker simply sniff out the MAC ID used in every packet and
    > simply spoof that MAC ID?
    >
    > barb


    Likewise with chaning to a static IP as suggested in this article on
    wireless network security:

    http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,1697,1152933,00.asp
    which says: "Many wireless routers default to the 192.168.1.0 network
    and use 192.168.1.1 as the default router.
    We discovered one network that didn't give us an IP address,
    but we assumed that they were using the defaults.
    We were right. We configured our notebook with an IP
    address in the 192.168.1.0 network using 192.168.1.1
    as the router address, and we had access to the
    Internet through their network."

    What I don't get is you'd have to change the entire class of addresses(ie
    subnet mask) to stop someone from connecting wouldn't you? For example, if
    I changed the Linksys router IP address from 192.168.1.1 to 192.168.1.66,
    anyone could STILL connect from a foreign PC simply by choosing any IP
    address in the range of 192.168.1.[0 to 255].

    Even if I change the subnet mask from 255.255.255.0 to 255.255.0.0, doesn't
    that just open up MORE IP addresses that can connect to my network?

    I'm so confused by these articles on wireless security. Can you help me
    make sense of their recommendations to sort out the snake oil from the
    practical?

    thanks,
    barb
    barb, Aug 6, 2006
    #12
  13. If you use proper encryption, etc then the unauthorized user will never gain
    access to your network. If you don't use proper encryption and the
    unauthorized user gains access to your network then it doesn't matter what
    address range you use. Once their on your network their on... That's the
    bottom line...

    --
    Al Jarvi (MS-MVP Windows Networking)

    Please post *ALL* questions and replies to the news group for the
    mutual benefit of all of us...
    The MS-MVP Program - http://mvp.support.microsoft.com
    This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no
    rights...


    "barb" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > On Sun, 06 Aug 2006 12:35:30 GMT, barb wrote:
    >
    >> On 6 Aug 2006 12:24:21 GMT, Ansgar -59cobalt- Wiechers wrote:
    >>>> Does hiding the SSID broadcase really offer any wireless protection?
    >>> No.

    >>
    >> Likewise with limiting to the known MAC IDs.
    >>
    >> Couldn't a hacker simply sniff out the MAC ID used in every packet and
    >> simply spoof that MAC ID?
    >>
    >> barb

    >
    > Likewise with chaning to a static IP as suggested in this article on
    > wireless network security:
    >
    > http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,1697,1152933,00.asp
    > which says: "Many wireless routers default to the 192.168.1.0 network
    > and use 192.168.1.1 as the default router.
    > We discovered one network that didn't give us an IP address,
    > but we assumed that they were using the defaults.
    > We were right. We configured our notebook with an IP
    > address in the 192.168.1.0 network using 192.168.1.1
    > as the router address, and we had access to the
    > Internet through their network."
    >
    > What I don't get is you'd have to change the entire class of addresses(ie
    > subnet mask) to stop someone from connecting wouldn't you? For example, if
    > I changed the Linksys router IP address from 192.168.1.1 to 192.168.1.66,
    > anyone could STILL connect from a foreign PC simply by choosing any IP
    > address in the range of 192.168.1.[0 to 255].
    >
    > Even if I change the subnet mask from 255.255.255.0 to 255.255.0.0,
    > doesn't
    > that just open up MORE IP addresses that can connect to my network?
    >
    > I'm so confused by these articles on wireless security. Can you help me
    > make sense of their recommendations to sort out the snake oil from the
    > practical?
    >
    > thanks,
    > barb
    Sooner Al [MVP], Aug 6, 2006
    #13
  14. You have to check with the manufacturer of the laptop to see if they offer
    driver/firmware upgrades that support WPA2/WPA. If they don't you could
    disable the onboard/integrated WiFi hardware and purchase a WPA2/WPA capable
    wireless card. Wireless cards are pretty cheap now adays...

    --
    Al Jarvi (MS-MVP Windows Networking)

    Please post *ALL* questions and replies to the news group for the
    mutual benefit of all of us...
    The MS-MVP Program - http://mvp.support.microsoft.com
    This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no
    rights...


    "barb" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > On Sun, 06 Aug 2006 08:26:50 -0400, Jeff Prater wrote:
    >>> Can I use WEP on one computer and WPA on the other?

    >> no. either update the drivers to the wep pc or just use wep. if your
    >> card cannot support wpa, then purchase a new wireless card.

    >
    > I don't have a wireless card, per se. It's built in. I tried setting up
    > WPA
    > and it said the card doesn't support it.
    >
    > Is there a definitive way to test if a wireless card supports WPA?
    >
    > barb
    Sooner Al [MVP], Aug 6, 2006
    #14
  15. In comp.security.firewalls barb <> wrote:
    > On 6 Aug 2006 12:24:21 GMT, Ansgar -59cobalt- Wiechers wrote:
    >>> Does hiding the SSID broadcase really offer any wireless protection?

    >>
    >> No.

    >
    > Likewise with limiting to the known MAC IDs.
    >
    > Couldn't a hacker simply sniff out the MAC ID used in every packet and
    > simply spoof that MAC ID?


    Yes.

    And if you already set a Followup-To, don't go and crosspost again.

    cu
    59cobalt
    --
    "All vulnerabilities deserve a public fear period prior to patches
    becoming available."
    --Jason Coombs on Bugtraq
    Ansgar -59cobalt- Wiechers, Aug 6, 2006
    #15
  16. barb

    Jeff Prater Guest

    barb wrote:
    > On Sun, 06 Aug 2006 12:35:30 GMT, barb wrote:
    >
    >> On 6 Aug 2006 12:24:21 GMT, Ansgar -59cobalt- Wiechers wrote:
    >>>> Does hiding the SSID broadcase really offer any wireless protection?
    >>> No.

    >> Likewise with limiting to the known MAC IDs.
    >>
    >> Couldn't a hacker simply sniff out the MAC ID used in every packet and
    >> simply spoof that MAC ID?
    >>
    >> barb

    >
    > Likewise with chaning to a static IP as suggested in this article on
    > wireless network security:
    >
    > http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,1697,1152933,00.asp
    > which says: "Many wireless routers default to the 192.168.1.0 network
    > and use 192.168.1.1 as the default router.
    > We discovered one network that didn't give us an IP address,
    > but we assumed that they were using the defaults.
    > We were right. We configured our notebook with an IP
    > address in the 192.168.1.0 network using 192.168.1.1
    > as the router address, and we had access to the
    > Internet through their network."
    >
    > What I don't get is you'd have to change the entire class of addresses(ie
    > subnet mask) to stop someone from connecting wouldn't you? For example, if
    > I changed the Linksys router IP address from 192.168.1.1 to 192.168.1.66,
    > anyone could STILL connect from a foreign PC simply by choosing any IP
    > address in the range of 192.168.1.[0 to 255].
    >
    > Even if I change the subnet mask from 255.255.255.0 to 255.255.0.0, doesn't
    > that just open up MORE IP addresses that can connect to my network?
    >
    > I'm so confused by these articles on wireless security. Can you help me
    > make sense of their recommendations to sort out the snake oil from the
    > practical?
    >
    > thanks,
    > barb

    if you're so concerned about security, use wpa2 for encryption and a
    radius server and certificate for authentication (peap, pki, etc.) if
    you have access to a windows server, this should be a walk in the park.
    Jeff Prater, Aug 6, 2006
    #16
  17. barb

    Joker Guest

    You should try posting to the microsoft.public.windowsxp.network_web
    newsgroup. This newsgroup supports Microsoft's Broadband Networking
    hardware and software only.

    Disabling the SSID broadcast is a waste of time, if the network gets
    used more then on occasion. This is because the SSID is broadcast in
    every packet outside of the encrypted portion of the packet. This means
    that a program as simple as NetStumbler can find your network. You can
    only use one type of encryption also. This means you can have clients
    connecting via WEP & WPA to the same wireless network. You could
    segment the networks, but have them connect via a wired connection. Yes
    you can tell it to connect to a network that isn't broadcasting it's
    SSID if you know the SSID. Just remember that SSIDs are case sensitive.

    barb wrote:
    > Does hiding the SSID broadcase really offer any wireless protection?
    >
    > I read with interest an article that says to turn off the broadcast of your
    > SSID. Guess what? My two-computer home wireless network stopped working as
    > soon as I booted one of WinXP PCs with the Linksys router turned off.
    >
    > To recover, I had to go through the entire setup process all over again
    > just to get the WinXP Wireless Zero Service to again understand the SSID.
    >
    > What is going on?
    > Is it really feasible to turn off the broadcast of the SSID?
    > Or is it so much BS from folks who need to write something to stay in
    > business?
    >
    > Is there any way to tell the WinXP PC to look for a certain SSID that isn't
    > broadcast without having to reconfigure the router every single time?
    >
    > Confused,
    > barb


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    Joker, Aug 6, 2006
    #17
  18. No that is not correct. This group supports "windows wireless networking"...

    You may be thinking of the "microsoft.public.broadbandnet.hardware" news
    group or one of the other Microsoft hardware news groups...

    --
    Al Jarvi (MS-MVP Windows Networking)

    Please post *ALL* questions and replies to the news group for the
    mutual benefit of all of us...
    The MS-MVP Program - http://mvp.support.microsoft.com
    This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no
    rights...


    "Joker" <> wrote in message
    news:%23sT%...
    > You should try posting to the microsoft.public.windowsxp.network_web
    > newsgroup. This newsgroup supports Microsoft's Broadband Networking
    > hardware and software only.
    >
    Sooner Al [MVP], Aug 6, 2006
    #18
  19. On 08/06/06 06:54, barb wrote:
    > Does hiding the SSID broadcase really offer any wireless protection?


    Yes, it does add some limited measure of protection.

    > I read with interest an article that says to turn off the broadcast of your
    > SSID. Guess what? My two-computer home wireless network stopped working as
    > soon as I booted one of WinXP PCs with the Linksys router turned off.


    Do not turn off the router its self, just stop it from broadcasting the SID.

    > Is it really feasible to turn off the broadcast of the SSID?


    Depending on what wireless client configuration software you are using, yes.

    > Or is it so much BS from folks who need to write something to stay in
    > business?


    No, this is not BS. However I do not believe that it is good advice for
    SOHO users.

    > Is there any way to tell the WinXP PC to look for a certain SSID that isn't
    > broadcast without having to reconfigure the router every single time?


    I have been told that this is possible. But seeing as how I don't run
    Windows if I can help it, I have no experience doing such.



    Grant. . . .
    Taylor, Grant, Aug 6, 2006
    #19
  20. On 08/06/06 07:15, barb wrote:
    > Here is an O'Reilly article that says to hide your SSID and to change your
    > broadcast channel for added security.
    > http://www.windowsdevcenter.com/pub/a/windows/2005/04/19/WiFiHacks.html
    >
    > Is this snake oil?


    No. These are just some of the many steps that can, and some should, be
    taken to secure wireless networks.

    > For example, as I already stated, if I change my SSID and then boot up
    > without the router powered on, there is no way (that I know of) to tell my
    > WinXP wireless applet the SSID (or am I missing something).


    This is twice (once in your former post) that you have stated that you do
    not have the router on. There are ways that you can tell your computer the
    SSID of the wireless network. However, if you have your AP powered off
    telling your computer the SSID will do no good as it will not be able to
    reach the AP.

    > Likewise, if I were to change my channel, I mean how many channels are
    > there? Wouldn't anyone who wanted to get onto my network just scroll down
    > to the next channel? Are there an infinite number of channels or a finite
    > number of channels?


    Changing channels is more a performance preference than it is a security
    setting. The reason you should change your channel is so that your AP is
    not as likely to be on the same channel as all the other APs in your
    vicinity. There are 11 use able channels in the US, and there are 13 in
    the rest of the world. I believe the FCC has blocked out channels 12 and
    13 in the US for some reason unknown to me.

    > All this seems like snake oil to me.


    No this is not snake oil.

    > QUESTION 1:
    > Once I stop broadcasting my SSID, how do I tell WinXP to use that SSID?


    Per the articles direction, you tell XP that your network is a preferred
    network. Windows XP (presumably) will try to connect to the preferred
    networks before other networks. Though I have no experience with this.

    > QUESTION 2:
    > If I change my channel, how long would it take a hacker to figure out
    > which channel I changed it to?


    Not long at all. However as I stated this is more a performance setting
    than it is a security setting.



    Grant. . . .
    Taylor, Grant, Aug 6, 2006
    #20
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