Online safety does not stop at having a good anti-virus and firewall or practicing secure browsing. Sometimes the safety of your wireless network can be compromised without you realizing it. With so many devices able to automatically connect to any WiFi network, there are a lot of unintentional WiFi “borrowers” who just happened to chance upon the connection. However, there are also those who can intentionally steal your WiFi connection and even use it to snoop around your computer for sensitive information. WiFi theft is one of the reasons for wireless home network security issues, sudden increase in your WiFi bill as well as connectivity and speed issues. Do not despair, all hope is not lost. Here are some online safety steps you can take to check if your WiFi connection is being stolen.
- Account all devices using the WiFi connection – identify all the WiFi enabled devices in your home that uses the network, including their IP or Media Access Controller (MAC) address. This will include other computers, printers, smartphones, and other e-connected appliances. You can find the IP address of a Windows device by using the ipconfig/all on the command prompt. For Mac OS it can be found on the TCP/IP Network Screen while iPhone and iPod devices will have them under Settings>General>About>WiFi Address, this is your MAC address. These will be a set of 12 hexadecimal characters.
- Once you have identified your devices and their respective addresses, open your router’s control panel so you can run them against the existing devices using the connection. You can access your router control panel by typing 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1 on your browser, if this does not work look up the IP address attached to the router itself, this should also have the username and password that you need to log in. One quick way to find out if someone is tapping into your network is if you have more IP and MAC addresses there than there is supposed to be. Look at the attached devices list for the machines using the WiFi network connection and run it against your own list so you can identify those that should not be there.
- If you want to kick it up a notch you can actually physically track down these devices that are stealing your connection by using software that triangulates network signals like MoocherHunter™ with a directional antenna. This may be taking it to the geeky extreme but it is nonetheless effective in letting you know if someone is hacking into your system.
Once you have identified the culprit you can actually adjust the settings of your router firewall to block these connections. Further more you can also take additional WiFi security measures such as using WPA or WPA2 authentication protocol to secure your network, instead of WEP settings that can easily be hacked. Learn more about wireless network security.