It was not that long ago that internet use required a computer to be connected to a modem, keeping you tied down to a desk in your home or office. Technology has improved in just a few short years, and today, we can access the internet from almost anywhere. Wireless internet has made computing more portable and easy-to-use, but it also comes with problems. Wi-Fi is cheaper and faster than cellular data which often has limits on the amount of data you can use each month, and people often search for unprotected Wi-Fi in order to avoid using data on phones and laptops.
Problems with Piggybacking
When someone is using your Wi-Fi without your permission, a process known as piggybacking, it can cause you problems. Unauthorized access to your Wi-Fi can cause lowered bandwidth, which may cause your devices to run more slowly or cause you additional costs through your internet provider if they suspect you are using more bandwidth than you should. Even worse, it is possible that someone who piggybacks on your Wi-Fi account could steal information from your computer or even infect your machines with viruses. However, there are ways to detect when someone is stealing your Wi-Fi and protect yourself from attacks from the outside.
Every device connected to your network is assigned a unique IP address or MAC address. Check your wireless router settings page to see what devices are listed.
Many times, people will name their device, such as “Susan’s Tablet” or “Bill’s Laptop.” If you see such names and there is no one named Susan or Bill authorized to use your Wi-Fi, it is apparent you have what is known as a Wi-Fi squatter. If no name appears that you do not recognize, simply count the devices attached to your Wi-Fi and if there are more devices connected than you own, you probably have someone piggybacking on your Wi-Fi.
Using a Free Utility or Your Router’s Admin Console
You can use a small free utility called Wireless Network Watcher. It scans your wireless network and shows you a list of all the devices and computers that are connected to your network. You can download it here.
Furthermore, you can log in to your router’s admin console to find out more about your wireless network or to change the router’s settings such as your password. To do this, you need to know your router’s IP address and password. You can find them in your router’s documentations or on your router. After you found the log in details, simply type in the router’s IP address in your browser and then log in using the password provided. It is recommended to change your router’s password so no one can log in.
Hidden SSID and Monitoring Software
If your wireless has a strong password, it is unlikely that anyone will be able to access your Wi-Fi. However, if you want to be sure that no one can figure out the password, you can set your router to hide the SSID so that it does not even appear when people search for accessible wireless systems. It will require the password to be entered manually. You can also set a MAC filter to disable access for any devices other than those you own, but that could be a problem when you have guests visiting who may need internet access. There are software programs available that can alert you when unfamiliar devices access your wireless.
As long as your wireless internet is encrypted with a strong password, you should not have to worry that someone may attempt to use it without permission. In fact, wireless is not as rare as it used to be, with almost every coffee shop and fast food restaurant now offering it for free. However, in order to protect your devices, setting your Wi-Fi up with a strong password is the best way to keep others from hacking into your information or infecting you with viruses.