There are many reasons why you’d want to know if an unauthorized party is using your wireless network. It could be your experiencing slower than usual Internet connection or you just don’t want anyone else getting a free ride while you’re paying all the bill. Of course, there are also security implications if the person can access personal files on your network, and even legal implications if your connection is used for piracy and other illegal activities.
Regardless of the case, it’s always better to be safe. So how can you tell if someone unauthorized is using your Wifi and—more importantly—what can you do about it?
How to Know
Check the Wireless Router Lights
Wireless Internet routers have lights that blink to serve as indicator for any wireless activity. Therefore, one effective way to know if an unauthorized user is using your Wifi is to shut down your wireless devices and see if the indicator lights of your router still blink. Also, keep in mind that some appliances like gaming consoles and smart TVs, connect automatically to a wireless network, so remember to unplug them as well. While this is a low-tech method of checking your network, it’s the quickest and easiest way to confirm your suspicions. For more in-depth network surveillance, follow up with administrative console check.
Check Router Device List
Your router’s administrative console can track your wireless network activities and change your network’s security settings. Log into the console by going to your router’s IP address. For Windows, go to a command prompt (press Win+R then type cmd), type ipconfig, and then find the ‘Default Gateway’ IP address. On a Mac, open the Network Preference panel and then grab the IP address listed next to ‘Router:’.
After finding the IP address of your router, copy it in the address bar of a browser. Then, you’ll be asked to log into your router. If you have not changed the default settings, you can find the log-ins on your router’s box or at the sticker located somewhere on your router. Typically, log-in information uses a combination of ‘admin’ and ‘password’. However, it’s recommended to change the log-in info as soon as your router is installed, before a hacker does it for you.
What You Can Do
Improve Your Network Security
If you’re using the more secure WPA2, you’re Wifi is pretty secure. If you have checked the network activity through the aforementioned tips and your connection is still slow, you may want to upgrade your Internet subscription. If you’re using WEP, which is very easy to crack, keep in mind that your connection is fairly vulnerable for those lurking around for a free ride. To change your type of encryption, go to wireless connection properties and check WPA2 (or at least WPA) to ensure better Wifi security.
Whether you find a leecher or not, we still strongly advise to use WPA2 encryption and tweak other setup essentials. If, for some reason, you want to leave your wireless network open or use WEP because of some devices (e.g. Nintendo DS) that won’t work with WPA, your best options to add a separate and secured network for all of your important stuff. Only open the less secured network for your guests and WEP-only devices when needed.
Filter MAC Address
First off, this has nothing to do with an Apple Mac; MAC address is a device’s unique identifier. Whether you have a PC, laptop, tablet, or a Wifi-enabled phone, each of them has unique MAC address. For an additional layer of network protection, you can add the MAC addresses of all your devices to your router’s settings, so that only the specified devices can connect to your network. Although this technique doesn’t guarantee that no intruders can access your Wifi, filtering MAC address alongside with WPA2 encryption makes a good tandem for a more robust network security.
Hopefully, you now have more secured home network, have learnt how to safeguard your network, and have faster Internet connection. While these security measures are not as advanced as Singapore IT experts can provide, they are usually enough to keep your confidential files protected, save you money from your Internet bill, and keep you away from the hassle caused by a sluggish Internet connection.