How To Tell if Someone Is Stealing Your Wifi

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How To Tell if Someone Is Stealing Your Wifi

In a perfect world, Internet access would be free.  Yet we all have to pay for Internet access; thanks to wireless Internet, more and more people get affordable connections at very high speeds.  The problem is that some users may freely access an unsecured network, and you have to pay for their access as well.  Here are some ways to detect people who are using your wireless Internet access for free.

What is Piggybacking?

The practice of using free wireless Internet access is called “piggybacking.”  Almost every laptop user will piggyback one way or another, especially if the connection is public.  Wifi hotspots like libraries, malls, restaurants, and coffee shops offer free wireless Internet access as part of their service.

Some people subscribe to personal wireless Internet access, and set up their homes or offices with a wireless modem or a wireless router.  Desktops, notebook computers, and other Internet-ready mobile devices can detect wireless Internet access, depending on the radius of the router or Internet connection sharing over the wireless LAN device of a notebook computer.  In unsecured home and office wireless networks, other people may freely access some signal strength and connect to your computer.

While it may seem that sharing an Internet connection makes you a “good neighbor,” you may end up with a network that’s too open because people keep connecting to it.  Not only does the network speed slow down, but you can also risk compromising your own computer’s security to people who may steal personal files, data, information, passwords, and may hack into your personal accounts as well.

Signs of Piggybacking

Here are some ways to detect whether or not someone is connecting to your personal wireless network:

  • Slower connections. One way to determine whether or not someone is accessing your wireless network is if your connection is slow, and network activity over the network is higher than usual.  The person piggybacking on your wireless access may be using your connection to download large files or to stream large segments of video.
  • Repeated disconnections. Most personal wireless networks have a limited number of computers that it can support at any given time.  If you have to connect and reconnect to your network repeatedly, too many users may have connected to the wireless network.
  • Anti-virus alerts. Some piggybackers may use unsecured wireless access to spread viruses and malware.  If your spyware alerts and firewalls are up, the computer can detect unauthorized access to your computer.

Securing Wireless Access

It’s very difficult to completely secure wireless access, but the best way to prevent people from stealing or taking advantage of free wi-fi is to secure the wireless network with a password.  Make sure the password is secure, and is difficult for piggybackers to figure out.

There will come a time that the dream of free Internet access for everyone will be realized, but until then, we all need to use the Internet as prudently and respectfully as possible.  With these tips to tell if someone is gaining unauthorized access to your personal wireless Internet connection, you can enjoy every dollar worth of your wifi subscription.