Imagine you are about to stream the last episode of your preferred TV series. You have your Kodi account ready, your Smart TV plugged and on, and the couch looks so comfortable that a tear drops from your eye. You are about to enjoy top-notch entertainment for the next hour or so.
However, you notice that the streaming is slow, it buffers, and the picture quality is not the same as the one you are used to, according to your connection details and your home entertainment equipment. Something is wrong. Could it be just a temporary blip of your Internet Service Provider, or is someone stealing your Wi-Fi signal? Could it be that annoying neighbor that moved in two weeks ago?
If you have your Wi-Fi network secured with a password, it is much harder for regular people to crack your security measures and enjoy your bandwidth for free. However, if you have your network open, anybody within reach can enter and do virtually anything he, or she, wants.
Nowadays, with all the risks associated with Internet use, it is downright reckless and irresponsible to leave your Wi-Fi network without a password. That’s like forgetting to close your door late at night and inviting thieves to come in and take away everything you own. Ok, not quite like that, but close enough.
In this article, we will highlight the security threats related to your Wi-Fi, how to determine if someone is gaining unauthorized access to your network, and what to do to increase the security of your router and Wi-Fi connection.
Wi-Fi connectivity: one of the world’s wonders
The Internet started out being slow, unpractical and of limited use, as one would expect. Now, it is lightning fast, it can be both with wires or wireless, and is in virtually everything we do in our lives.
Now, in 2018, the technological and digital landscape changed, and wireless connectivity is a must wherever you go. Once upon a time, wires kept us glued to our chairs and tables; but now, we can enjoy the benefits of Wi-Fi in airports, libraries coffee shops, restaurants, doctors’ offices and waiting rooms.
Wi-Fi is the technology that encompasses wireless networking, which means that people can get Internet access without having to be connected to a router or modem. Some of the most common devices with the ability to connect to a Wi-Fi network are smartphones, computers, laptops, tablets, watches, smart TVs, digital cameras, digital media players, and printers, among others.
The majority of us have routers and devices to set up and run Wi-Fi networks back at home. However, we have mentioned all the positive attributes of these types of connection, but we haven’t even started to tell you that you should look out for your online security when you connect to a public hotspot or even at your own house.
Bandwidth: everything you need to know
With the term Wi-Fi, we usually hear associated words. “Hotspots,” “networks,” “router,” and numerous more. However, when you listen to “bandwidth,” do you know what it is and what does it imply for connectivity matters?
Bandwidth is nothing more than the range of frequencies within a given band, in particular, that used for transmitting a signal, in this case, Internet connection. In other words, it is the rate at which data can be transferred to your computer or device from a website or internet service within a specific time.
If you have a router with an Internet plan, you have a specific amount of bandwidth, and its strength is the one attribute that determines the speed, performance, and efficiency of your Internet connection and activity.
Having insufficient bandwidth may work for essential tasks, such as opening specific web pages, sending emails, and such. However, if you have a lot of bandwidth, you may be able to download files and torrents, stream online, participate in multiplayer games, and so on.
How to tell if your neighbor is stealing your Wi-Fi
Use an app
The Internet and the distinct app stores available in all the operating systems provide numerous alternatives and software to help you identify whether somebody is stealing your Wi-Fi or not. Some of these apps are:
- F-Secure Router Checker: Use this tool to avoid downloads. Additionally, it can look for hacking activity in the form of stealthy setting tweaks to kidnap your Internet connection.
- Fing: It Is associated with iOS and works perfectly with iPhones and iPads. You can monitor connected gadgets and more details. If you need additional information, Fing provides the option to observe peaks regarding bandwidth and exact times.
- Wi-Fi Inspector: Associated with Google Chrome, it can have annoying ads but fulfills its job, which is to take a cost-free look at all devices on your network, including their names, IP addresses, and more.
- Wireless Network Watcher: It is an independent piece of software, ready to help MacOS and Windows users to identify suspicious activity regarding your Wi-Fi connection. You can monitor all the connected devices.
Monitor your administrator logs
To do this, you need to go to your router’s administration page. It is possible by writing “192.168.1.1” or “192.168.2.1” in the address bar. Once you are there, identify the Media Access Control (MAC) section – it may vary from brand to brand – to monitor activity and connected devices. If you see an unusual gadget or computer, someone is stealing your Wi-Fi.
Pay attention to your router’s lights
Your router has several bulbs and lights: some of them are supposed to be on and hold steady, some of them may be off, and others are meant to twinkle. One of the lights is an indicator of wireless activity, so if you want to determine if your neighbor is stealing your Wi-Fi, disable all wireless devices and check if that light is still up and running. If it is, then we have some bad news for you.
The consequences of someone stealing your Wi-Fi
The most evident consequence of somebody hijacking your Wi-Fi is the slower speed, which is evident in virtually anything you want to do, from opening a page to gaming and, especially, online streaming. In the latter example, you can see a lot of buffering, a clear sign that you are sharing your bandwidth with an unwanted guest.
Also, since lots of Internet service providers establish a data cap for household plans, you may see extra fees on your monthly bill if someone is connecting to your Wi-Fi network.
However, the most dangerous consequences come in the form of online security. If someone has access to your Wi-Fi, it may look to inject a virus in your system, steal critical data and information from you, or, in the worst-case scenario, commit criminal acts with your connection. Guess whose door the police will knock in that case.
What to do if your neighbor is stealing your Wi-Fi
You can get wireless encryption to keep your neighbor or any external agents away from your network. Establish a robust password and implement the most secure wireless encryption available in the market, which is WPA2. WEP and WPA are obsolete nowadays.
Increase your online security with a VPN
VPNs are online resources that encrypt all your data and traffic. Encryption means enhanced protection, privacy, and anonymity, features that you will need whether you are using your Wi-Fi network or a public one.
Best VPNs like TorGuard, IPVanish, and PIA can hide your traffic, shared data and IP address, sending it all through remote servers, away from hackers, crypto miners, viruses and other threats associated with the use of the Internet.
In conclusion, if you notice that your downloads are slower than usual, that your preferred streaming sites are presenting a lot of buffering and does not provide the accustomed performance, or any unusual activity regarding your router or connection, then your neighbor is probably stealing your Wi-Fi.
There are numerous measures you can take to prevent that from happening, although you may want to act fast. You don’t want a virus to infect your system or a hacker to steal your credit card numbers, for example, nor the police or any other authorities knocking on your door and looking to investigate some cybercriminal you know you didn’t commit.