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I am having trouble getting connected to my Linksys wireless router. I have it set up with a specific SSID -- which it is not broadcasting -- and wireless security turned off. I'm sure you could lecture me about how this is bad practice, but I'm not interested in that; I need to know how to get this working.

I experimented by turning the SSID broadcast on, and then immediately my computer could connect with no issue. But when I subsequently (manually) disconnected my computer, disabled SSID broadcasting on the router, and then tried to reconnect with the computer, I run into trouble.

Here's where I'm getting stuck:

  1. My network does not show up in the list (which is expected), so I click Network and Sharing Center
  2. I click on "Set up a new connection or network"
  3. I choose "Manually connect to a wireless network"
  4. I type in the SSID, choose "No authentication" from the security drop down, and check the checkboxes labeled "Start this connection automatically" and "Connect even if the network is not broadcasting"
  5. I click Next
  6. Immediately, it tells me A network called [SSID] already exists
  7. It presents me with only two options: "Use the existing network" or "Choose a different name." The former option takes me back to step 1, because even though it says "the network already exists," it doesn't show it anywhere in the list. The latter option takes me back to step 4.

As you can see I end up in a real-life infinite loop. It's telling me "the network already exists," but it's nowhere to be found in the list of existing networks. What do I do?

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The funny thing is that it took me to remove the just-configured connection (the article is here) due to a guest's win7 moaning that the parameters are unsuitable (as if it was impossible to pick supported encryption types off the air as my Linux system does given the SSID) -- and then it suddenly appeared in the scanned networks list allowing to connect via supplying only the password. BTW Stephanie's point is rather moot as Spiff has already mentioned, and being the very low hanging fruit is not about secu –  Michael Shigorin Aug 26 '12 at 16:12

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Looks like you found it, but the lecture is still needed here because this is dangerous.

Hidden SSIDs are actually WORSE than security through obscurity. Not only is there the obvious problem, that someone with wireless sniffing software will still get the SSID, there's also the not so obvious problem - in turning off the SSID broadcast on the router, the client has to do a form of SSID broadcast instead, and this happens no matter where the computer is being used - any time the computer isn't connected to a more preferred network, it will be broadcasting looking for the hidden SSID.

This gives an attacker a tool that they can leverage to trick your computer into connecting to a hostile network. Now not only is your wireless network not safe at home, your computer isn't safe anywhere either.

Use the strongest possible encryption (sorry, WEP doesn't count anymore), and don't make the problem worse by shifting the SSID broadcast from the AP to the client.

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Clients have always done directed scans (effectively broadcasting the SSID of the network they're looking for) for networks they want to join, even before hidden SSIDs became popular. Whether or not you use a hidden SSID, your client will still give away your SSID. If you want to avoid rogue APs, use WPA or better so you authenticate the network to the client, as well as the client to the network. The biggest problem with hidden SSIDs is that they take longer to scan for and find, and thus can cause problems at join time and when roaming is needed. –  Spiff Jul 13 '11 at 8:40
    
I'm going to accept your answer instead of my own just as a thanks for taking the time to give this detailed explanation of why what I'm doing is bad. –  SoaperGEM Jul 13 '11 at 21:30

Wait... I feel silly; I just figured it out. I need to click "Manage wireless networks" on the left in the Network and Sharing Center, locate my old profile, and click "Remove." After doing that, the steps I described above worked like a charm.

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