Rhodri Marsden: What does your wireless network say about you?

Cyberclinic
Click to follow
The Independent Tech

I've noticed that someone in my block of flats has treated themselves to a wireless router, because its name now features in the list of available access points from my computer. Normally I wouldn't think twice about this, except that it's labelled "COMMANDO", which either means its owner is interested in staging hit-and-run-style military manoeuvres, or they're not wearing underpants. Or both. And weirdly, they want me to know.

A wander through any residential area will reveal a bewildering array of service set identifiers, or SSIDs, the names we give to our wireless access points. These days many routers come out of the box with a unique but deeply boring name like "BTHomeHub-8DF4", but some instruction manuals still advise us to change the default SSID to something of our own, provoking a rich stream of human creativity. An enquiry on Twitter this week revealed that SSIDs seem to fall into one of seven categories – but which one is yours?

1. Those that reveal so much information (eg, "backbedroomFlat12") that they double as open invitations to thieving intruders, and may as well be named "I own a computer, help yourself."

2. Names like "Top Secret", "Keep Out" or "-_-_-_-_-" which, for bored local teenagers with elite hacking skills developed over late nights in front of a flickering screen, are nothing short of a red rag to a bull.

3. Ineffective sexual braggadocio, such as "lovemuffincutecute" or "HungLikeAHorse" – ineffective because it's not remotely clear who's actually doing the bragging.

4. The surreal or whimsical: "Hector's Hat", "The Giblets", "Drunk Guy Next Door".

5. The ones designed to cause slight unease amongst the local community, eg, "I watch you through a telescope", "PROVOS", "We Still Kill The Old Way", "Sleeping w/your husband".

6. Passive-aggressive choices that convey stern messages of disapproval, despite zero guarantee that they'll be seen by the guilty party, eg "Your dog is out of control", "We can hear you having sex", "Please no more music at 3am".

7. Where paranoia surrounding the possible use of an internet connection by a third party manifests itself in SSIDs like "Stay Off This Router" or "Don't Steal Our Internet You Basterds" (sic) – despite the fact that a more effective measure would be to simply change the password.

It's surprising that more people in the final category don't simply tick the box in their router settings that stops the SSID being broadcast, thus putting a stop to the vast majority of casual snooping. But if everyone did that, it would deprive us of a fascinating cultural phenomenon. Well, moderately interesting, anyway.

Email any technology gripes to cyberclinic@independent.co.uk

Comments