When ones goes into a public space, like a train or plane, how does one prevent their previously joined SSIDs from being broadcast? I noticed that my phone and tablet tend to try to join these networks and it can efficiently build a list of places I've been to in the past without too much effort. The accuracy might be off, but you'd know that I've traveled to Starbucks at least once.

If there isn't a solution outside of just disabling WiFi on my mobile devices, is this just a specification of WLAN devices? Also, if solutions exist, I'm curious specific about Android, Linux and Windows devices.

  • Each device can do this differently. Windows, Linux, Mac, iOS, Android, they all have ways of dealing with this. Are you asking about protecting a particular device? – schroeder Dec 13 '14 at 1:57
  • Yeah, I'll update this accordingly. – jackyalcine Dec 13 '14 at 2:49
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    @Iszi, it depends on how you define "risk". Would you enjoy having your cell phone broadcasting that you once connected to the AP of a clinic known mainly for treating STIs? – Mark Dec 13 '14 at 11:01
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    @Iszi I wouldn't want my phone to broadcast SSIDs it's connected to before. Instead, I'd rather it compile a list of the networks it can see, compare that against networks it's connected to before but without showing all of the prior networks. – jackyalcine Dec 16 '14 at 7:50
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    It is a risk - have a look at how the wifi pineapple works! – Rory Alsop Dec 20 '14 at 12:23

It is a risk, it may even compromise the PSK of the broadcasted SSID if a rogue AP is set up for that purpose (to capture the handshake).

If any "Autoconnect to any Wireless network" toggle is available on those systems, you may be able to avoid the probe requests, but as far as I know, it's not usual to find access to that option.

Anyway, this talk about attacking clients and how to disable the probe requests of SSIDs on different devices may be interesting for you: http://www.slideshare.net/rootedcon/ral-siles-wifi-why-ios-android-and-others-fail-inexplicably-rooted-con-2013


Well, if you're worried about open wifi hotspots, the obvious answer is to simply delete them as you leave, so your device doesn't have them in the list anymore.

Alternately, particularly if you want to save WPA or WPA2 passwords, then on Linux and (rooted) Android, you can also remove them from wpa_supplicant.conf; you could have a variety of copies of that file with different names, and copy the one you need over the main file.

  • Android location: /data/misc/wifi/wpa_supplicant.conf

I'm not as sure about Windows; if you unselect "Connect automatically when this network is in range" and also unselect "Connect even if the network is not broadcasting its name (SSID)", what does a packet sniffer show you're broadcasting? I would expect it to no longer broadcast that SSID, but you'd have to check.

You should always check, if you're truly concerned :).

  • Thanks for the tips! It always seems like rooted Android is the way to go! Kind of wish (I'm not sure if it has) it used SELinux more often. – jackyalcine Jan 12 '15 at 11:51
  • @Anti-weakpasswords, What do you use to check? – Pacerier Feb 16 '15 at 10:00
  • @Pacerier you would use a wifi sniffer, preferably on a different device, to receive and display what the suspect device is actually broadcasting, using Wireshark and/or airodump-ng or a similar tool. – Anti-weakpasswords Jun 14 '15 at 17:18
  • @Anti-weakpasswords, I mean which one do you recommend / use? – Pacerier Jul 8 '15 at 10:49
  • @Pacerier, I generally use airodump/wireshark to check. For Android, currently I still use Cyanogenmod. – Anti-weakpasswords Nov 1 '15 at 4:48

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