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Not sure if this is a question for super user or not, and if it isn't then I'll gladly delete and repost in the correct area...

But I was wondering why wireless networks are defined based upon the networks name and not an id?

To better explain:

I recently set up a family members wireless network to use the same network name as my own network name but with a different password.. What I found was all my devices/laptops/computers that were connected to my network would then try to connect to this new network when in range but would fail as the password wasn't correct for the network.

So why is it not possible to have two wireless networks with the same name?

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How would you like to have twin brothers named Joe? Than try to explain to Dad which Joe did it. – Buscar웃 Apr 26 '13 at 21:34
Good question. This can even be an attack vector. – gronostaj Apr 26 '13 at 21:58
@gronostaj I didn't quite understand the attack vector... are you saying its a middle ground security point? – Sayse Apr 26 '13 at 22:05
@Sayse Specifically, the issue you're running into is a "feature": I can set up multiple APs over a large area all with the same name and password, and users will be able to transparently shift from one AP to another without dropping connections as they move out of range of one AP and into range of another. This is frequently used at large corporate campuses, universities, and schools. This allows me to pick up a Skype call on my tablet, and then walk all the way across campus without dropping the call. – Darth Android Apr 26 '13 at 22:12
@Sayse I mean you can launch a Man In The Middle attack just by creating a network with the same name. Devices that were previously connected to a network with that name will happily connect again, but this time it's your network and you can capture everything that goes through it. – gronostaj Apr 26 '13 at 22:13
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The obvious reason: An ID is just too complex for every day use, using handles like names is much easier.

Slight Elaboration: Your Wireless Access Point will have a BSSID (Basic Service Set Identifier) ...usually the MAC-Address of the Device(which is unique) and a SSID Service Set Identifier
which is a 32 Byte long Name you can give your Network to which it will respond if called on.

Besides being nicer than memorizing some "seemingly" random ID's/Mac Addresses it also allows you to split the Network into multiple virtual LANs or extend a Network over multiple WAPs by utilizing identical SSID's. Abstracting Wireless Networks in this way makes their use so flexible.

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I can understand for visual purposes to use a name, but still an underlying id would surely be more flexible? – Sayse Apr 26 '13 at 21:36
Well there is an underlying ID. But i can't call someone by his name and expect him to check if the right ID is being called...the name basically replaces the usage of an ID since usually you have only a handful of WiFi Networks in range with an extremely low probability of having duplicate names. – M.Bennett Apr 26 '13 at 21:40
Imagine everyone having Networks called something along the lines of H9300176zi3n9q100923s - giving my WiFi Network a Name like "My Hotspot" is a little more human-friendly – M.Bennett Apr 26 '13 at 21:42
I suppose I'll just have to get used to different names, it makes sense in an OOP world to just have an object that would have an id to check.. – Sayse Apr 26 '13 at 21:46
I don't necessarily agree that "it's easy to remember" is the real reason for this design choice. Wireless networks could of course use different IDs, but have the same display names. Do you happen to know of any resources backing up that statement? Perhaps something informational in the 802.11 standard referring to SSIDs? – slhck Apr 26 '13 at 21:52

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