Detecting Wireless Piggybacking
Okay, it's time to get down to it. Is your wireless network
running slowly? Do you have intermittent losses in Internet access and you can't figure out why? Chances are, you've already detected a WiFi squatter and didn't even know it. If you regularly experience these problems, maybe you have something wrong with your wireless connection. But if you're suddenly having intermittent problems with your Internet performance, especially at the same time each day, it's a red flag that someone is piggybacking off your wireless connection and it's time for you to diagnose your WiFi network.
The first and simplest thing you can do is check out your wireless network connection and see if it's secure. When you install your router
, you're given the option of setting a wireless encryption protocol (WEP)
key. Basically this is a password-protected method for you to log on to your own wireless network. If you don't have one, you're operating an open network. That means anyone within range can use your wireless for free. While it's not hacking, it is debatable as to whether this is actually stealing. In any case, if you don't have a WEP key, you're vulnerable to WiFi squatting and certainly not deterring squatters.
Even if you have a WEP key, that doesn't necessarily mean your neighbor hasn't bypassed it. To determine if he or she is logging onto your wireless network, you can do so by checking your wireless network log. To do this, click your Start Menu in Microsoft Windows, then double-click My Network Places. Next, double-click View Entire Network. If there are more devices connected than you have allowed on your network, you have WiFi thieves.
A similar method to determining the status of your WiFi user list is to check your router's DHCP client table. Much like viewing your network, your DHCP client table will list the machines on your network. If the number exceeds what you've set up, you have someone stealing your WiFi.
Nobody wants to be taken advantage of. What's more, you certainly don't want illegal information flowing through your wireless network. That's why you need to take matters in your own hands. The final section will give you the power to thwart off Internet thieves and protect your wireless connection. Are you ready to fight back? Turn the page to learn how.
Stopping Digital Thieves
A WEP key is an absolute must for any wireless network
; however, even those are vulnerable. While WEP protection will stop the guy parking in front of your house, it may not stop a more determined user like your neighbor. In that case, you can use a security protocol such as WiFi protected access (WPA)
. This route is more secure but can still be hacked by a determined WiFi thief.
You can also use manual DHCP assignment. To do this, simply set your router's DHCP to the manual setting and enter in each of your computer's physical addresses. This will restrict your network to allow only those computers recognized by the router.
If the manual DHCP route isn't comfortable for your level of computer expertise, you may want to consider generating a MAC access list which usually can be created through the browser interface of the router
. Unfortunately, MAC address lists can also be bypassed by savvy WiFi thieves; nevertheless, when used in conjunction with other security methods, they're probably enough on a small home network
Internet monitoring software is also a viable option. Monitoring software will walk you through some of these methods and is user friendly for those who aren't as comfortable setting up wireless security methods. In addition, monitoring software makes it easy to see what is going on with your wireless connection. Your WiFi router may have some built-in software that will help you monitor your network. Explore the user guide and help section to see if there's a built-in application that will help.
Finally, turn off your router's SSID broadcasting. This effectively makes your network invisible. It's much harder to steal WiFi from a network that doesn't appear on anyone's radar.
Next time you suspect WiFi theft, peek out the front window and see if an unfamiliar car is parked in front of or close to your home. If so, you'll probably find someone in the car sapping your Internet
. It sounds simple, but it could be just that easy to determine if someone is stealing your WiFi.