Wireless internet service has become quite a luxury. Long gone are the days when you had to make tough choices that pit a tedious dial-up connection against using your home’s landline.
Welcome to the 21st century, where checking for a good hotspot has become second nature. From quick trips to the grocery store to a weekend stay at a friend’s house, you only care about one thing: where’s the Wi-Fi?
To keep others from connecting on the sly, here are some things you can do to keep your wireless network secure.
Keep your Wi-Fi password on the down low
Be vigilant when giving out your Wi-Fi password. Once a friend has it, they can come into your neighborhood any time and connect – even from their car. Hopefully you don’t have friends like that.
Don’t make it easy for those looking for free Wi-Fi. If your network password is something easily retrievable like your phone number, change it to something that others won’t be able to guess. A long, random string of letters and numbers is ideal.
If you have some technical know-how, you can go the DIY route and protect your own Wi-Fi. There are plenty of resources online that will guide you to a safer internet connection. Start with your service provider.
- AT&T - All About Wi-Fi and Home Network Connections
- Charter - Excessive Use of Bandwidth
- Comcast – Securing Your Wireless Gateway Network
- Cox - Ways to Secure Your Wireless Network
- Time Warner Cable – Home Wi-Fi Connection Problems
- Verizon – Internet Security Checklist
How do you know if someone is using your Wi-Fi connection?
Pay close attention to how your Wi-Fi performs. Is your normally lightning fast internet speed suddenly operating at a snail’s pace? Does this occur consistently around the same time of day or night? Do apps on your phone or tablet not open or run as quickly as they once did? Any of these situations could be cause for concern.
Related article: Tips to Troubleshoot Slow Internet Speed
To confirm your suspicions, try the following:
Turn off and unplug each and every Wi-Fi device in your home. This includes not only phones, computers and tablets, but game consoles as well (ie. PlayStation, Wii, Xbox, etc.) Once everything is disconnected, the indicator lights on your wireless router should no longer be blinking. If they are, this may mean that someone outside your home is connected to your Wi-Fi.
While the option above is probably the easiest, it’s not the only way to see if anyone is helping themselves to your Wi-Fi. More complicated methods include logging into your network administrative console using your IP address. And if you’d rather sit back while someone else does the dirty work, there are third party software apps (both free and paid) that’ll track internet invaders on your behalf.
Why should you care?
Internet usage is measured in terms of bandwidth. The more you email, tweet and play Candy Crush, the more bandwidth is being utilized. Depending on how your internet provider charges, you may be paying for others to surf the net.
Also, if your neighbor is doing anything unlawful online it will initially be tracked back to the person whom the wireless connection is registered to – that’s you!
What can you do?
Like a good neighbor, give your network name an intimidating or unusual title. Your goal is to make your Wi-Fi connection something that no sane human being would ever want to click on. Here are some ideas to get your juices flowing:
- Get Your Own Wi-Fi
- Hidden Network
- Local Surveillance Operation
- No Internet Access
If you aren’t savvy with any of the aforementioned tips on how to detect someone using your Wi-Fi, you can always contact your internet service provider for professional help with securing and encrypting your private connection.
Photo credit: Shutterstock / Jeff Wasserman