It may be difficult to imagine, but 20 years ago, the Internet was just a novelty - a means for incredibly smart college professors and researchers to spread information, and for some people to connect through the recently developed World Wide Web. E-mail was not like it is today. The old e-mail systems found at universities or even through accounts offered with the first Internet service providers (ISPs) like Prodigy and America Online were cumbersome to use.
Back to the 2010s and things have changed considerable. Where as wired Internet kept us hooked to a desk, today's laptops and mobile devices give us access to friends and on ending entertainment just anywhere via WiFi, 3G and 4G technologies.
While we use 3G and 4G data on our smartphones as we're out and move about in the world, WiFi still dominates in the home. And in coffee shops. And libraries. And airports. Thanks to the glut of wireless routers and hotspots, just like the old wired Internet connection -- faster and cheaper and without the limiting bandwidth caps of cellular data -- can be turned into a convenient WiFi zone.
Whether we set them up ourselves or acquire them from Internet service providers, most of us have WiFi routers in our homes nowadays. That can cause a lot of difficulties: When wireless devices are operating at the same frequency, they can cause interference, if you're living in an apartment building. And without the adequate security, anybody can easily penetrate your wireless network.
Chances are possible you suspect someone is using your WiFi through through the back door . When wireless eves droppers steal your WiFi, they consume your bandwidth. In extreme cases, they can steal information from your computer or infect devices on your network with a virus. But panic not: It's quite easy to put up a defence. Let's start with basics of managing a wireless network, which is the real step towards keeping your WiFi setup cool and protected.
Understanding Your WiFi Network
If you want to detect if someone is using your wireless Internet connection, it's necessary to know basics of computer networking. For infromation on how to configure a wireless network, take a depth at How WiFi Works.Let's explain few of the areas in a wireless network that allow you know if your WiFi signal is being tapped unknowingly.
A wireless network consists of a broadband Internet connection from a DSL, cable or satellite modem. You hook the modem to a wireless router to distribute the signal and creates a network.
This is known as local area network (LAN).LAN is where you configure computer peripherals such as your desktop or laptop computer and printer. Your router must have what's known as a dynamic host client protocol (DHCP) table. In a nutshell, your DHCP table acts as the list of all allowed piece of computing equipment.
Every device comes with its own media access control(MAC) address.Imagine it as its signature.The router utilizes these addresses to assign all devices on your network an Internet protocol (IP) address. Both MAC and IP addresses of each device will be needed in times when we look at ways to detect if or not someone is tapping your WiFi. For clear understanding of IP addresses, check What is an IP address?
There are also some important terms associated with WiFi that you must know. A service set identifier (SSID) is the name that identifies a wireless network. By default, this will likely be that of your router -- Netgear or ASUS or anything similar -- but you can change to something more personal or creative, like Adebayo Linksys. The most commonly used WiFi- 802.11n, is able ramp up of 600 megabit per second data transfers. 802.11ac is the next standard, which allows for wireless speeds greater than one gigabit per second. 2.4GHz and 5GHz are two different wireless frequencies used in wireless routers.
If you're confused by this computer jargons , don't panic. What's necessary is you know what to look for when you need to troubleshoot your WiFi connection.
Is Tapping WiFi a Crime?
A court in Michigan had to let a man go off felony charges for stealing a WiFi signal from a coffee shop while in his car. The man had been checking his e-mail and browsing the Internet before he was arrested and informed it was illegal to do so. Prosecutors eventually determined the man had no idea what he was doing was illegal, let alone a felony. Nevertheless, the case sets a precedent that piggybacking WiFi in Michigan is indeed a felony crime after all.
Setting up a Secure Network
Is your wireless network operating slowly? Do you have frequent losses in Internet access and you can't determine why? In all manner, nobody steals your Internet.Lots of things could cause a slow connection. Your Internet service provider might be having issues or is overloaded with traffic. Your WiFi router might be experiencing interference from other electronics, or simply be having trouble penetrating the walls and furniture of your home to get a wireless signal to your computer.
The main thing you require to prevent 99.9 percent of wireless squatters from using your Internet connection: a password
The main component of wireless security is an encryption protocol like WPA2,or WiFi Protected Access.Older standards like WEP and the first generation of WPA have been phased out for the higly secure WPA2. You need to set up WPA2 security on you wireless router and set a password for the network. Make it something you can easily remember and not easy for others to guess (do not use "password" or "12345!")
How do you set it up? It depends on the type of router you have,but all WiFi routers are accessible from a connected device via the address http://192.168.1.1 in a Web browser.Signing in is quite easy as most router manufacturers use a simple pair of words like "root" and "admin" for the device's login and password.That takes you to a management tool where you can adjust all settings, in-addition to your wireless security.
That information may trigger off a little security alert in the back of your head. "If all routers use the same local address and login/password, couldn't anyone get in there and alter with my security configuration? " Well ... yes! Without a password, your wireless network is free for everybody to log on. But a password is not all you need to be totally protected. You must change the router's login information to something besides the usual "admin." That will prevent anybody from hacking your router -- but let's take a look at how to detect a WiFi leach, just in case.
Detecting Wireless Piggybacking
With WPA2 security enabled, it's unlikely anyone will ever piggyback on your network. But there's an easy way to spot squatters: Since every device connected to your network has a unique IP addressand MAC address, you can easily see a list of connected devices -- often listed as "clients" -- on one of the settings pages for your wireless router. Many devices broadcast an ID because they've been named by their owners, so if you see "John's Laptop" connected to your network and you don't have a John in the house, you've found trouble! Even if a device doesn't show a name in the router's client list, you can count the number of devices connected and compare to the number of devices you know should be there to see if the numbers are off.
Want to make absolutely sure no one's going to figure out your password and worm their way onto your network? You have a few options. Your router can hide its SSID, meaning it won't show up for anyone searching for connectable networks. The address will have to be entered manually. You can also set up a wireless MAC filter to "whitelist" devices you own, disabling access for anyone else. Of course, this makes it a bit tougher for welcome guests, such as friends, to get online at your house.
Internet monitoring software is also an option. For example, free utilityAirSnare will alert you when unfamiliar MAC addresses log onto your network. But with a secure connection, you shouldn't have to worry about that. The truth is, WiFi is not a precious commodity like it once was. You can get it at practically any coffee shop. Millions of us carry around smartphones with always-on data connections. To some degree, that makes WiFi access a faster, cheaper option of Internet access, but it's not always the most convenient one.
As long as your network is passworded, only a hacker using specialized software is going to get past your security. Technology site Ars Technica has detailed how a $2500 program called Silica can be used in conjunction with Web sites containing dictionaries of millions of words to connect to a secured network and crack its password [source:Ars Technica]. But there's still an easy way to stop even serious hackers in their tracks: Use a better password. The longer and harder to guess, the safer your network will be.
With a strong password, you shouldn't ever have to worry about keeping tabs on who connects to your network. Piggybackers will have to find someone else to mooch off of.
How to Detect if Someone Stealing Your WiFi
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