Wireless Modem
Wireless Modem

Improve the security of your home network by changing the SSID. Wireless broadband modems and wireless access points establish a wireless network using a name called Service Set Identifier (SSID). These devices are configured with a factory default SSID network name. Generally, all the modems of a manufacturer are assigned the same SSID.

If you are wondering if you should change the name of your modem, the answer is simple. Yes, you should. Typical default SSIDs are simple words like:

  • Wireless
  • Netgear
  • Linksys
  • Default

There is a good chance that you have neighbors with the same type of modem and that they use the same default SSID. It could be the recipe for a disaster with regard to security, particularly if neither uses encryption. Check the modem’s SSID and, if it is one of these defaults, change the network name to something that only you know.

How to find a wireless modem’s SSID

To find the modem’s current SSID, enter its IP address to access the administrator’s configuration pages via a computer. Most modem manufacturers use a default address such as 192.168.0.1. For example, if you have a Linksys WRT54GS modem:

  • Enter http://192.168.1.1 (or another modem address if its default has been changed) in a browser.
  • Most Linksys modems use the username admin and require no password, so leave the password field blank.
  • Select the Wireless menu option.
  • Displays the current SSID name in the Wireless Network Name (SSID) field.

Other modem manufacturers follow a similar path for SSID. Check the modem manufacturer’s website or the documentation for specific default login credentials. The IP address can also be written at the bottom of the modem, but the username and password, if any, is still required.

Decide whether to change your SSID

An SSID can be changed at any time via the modem configuration screen. Changing after establishing a wireless network causes all wireless devices to disconnect and reconnect to the network using the new name. Otherwise, the choice of the name does not affect the operation of a Wi-Fi network at all.

If two networks with the same name are installed next to each other, the users and client devices may get confused and try to join the wrong one. If both networks are open (not using WPA or other security), clients can silently leave the correct network and join the other. Even with Wi-Fi security enabled, users find duplicate names annoying.

Experts discuss whether the use of a manufacturer’s default SSID represents a security risk to the home network. On the one hand, the name does not affect a hacker’s ability to find and penetrate the network. On the other hand, given the multiple networks in a neighborhood to choose from, attackers can target those with predefined names on the likelihood that those families had little care in configuring their home networks.

Choose good wireless network names

To improve the security or usability of your home wireless network, consider changing the modem’s SSID to a different name than the default. An SSID is case-sensitive and can contain up to 32 alphanumeric characters. Follow these guidelines based on recommended network security practices:

  • Do not incorporate your name, address, date of birth or other personal information as part of the SSID.
  • Do not use any of the passwords on your Windows or Internet website.
  • Do not attempt potential intruders using attractive network names such as MakeMyDay or Top-Secret.
  • Choose an SSID that contains both letters and numbers.
  • Choose a long name or almost as long as the maximum length allowed.
  • Consider changing your SSID periodically at least once every few months.
  • Write down the new SSID name somewhere you can find it, maybe at the bottom of the modem.

After choosing a new network name, making the change is simple. In the field next to Wireless Network Name (SSID) for a Linksys modem or in a similar field for another manufacturer. The change is not activated until it is saved or confirmed. No need to restart the modem.

You can find practical information on the modem manufacturer’s website or in an online step-by-step guide to change the SSID on a Linksys modem.


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