There are several reasons why you might want to check if an unauthorized party is using your wireless network. Maybe you are experiencing slower than normal internet connection or you don’t want someone to get a free ride while paying the bill. Of course, there are also security implications if this person can somehow access files on your network, and even legal implications if he or she uses your connection for theft or other illegal activities.
Whatever it is it is better to be on the safe side. Many of you might have already taken some basic precautions while setting up your wireless network and know about how to troubleshoot these problems. This short guide is mostly aimed at novice users to find out if their Wi-Fi is really being stolen.
Check the Devices Connected to Your Router
The first thing you need to do is login to your router’s administrative console directly by typing your IP address into the browser address bar – usually 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1 depending on which router you have . If you don’t know your router’s default address then refer to this guide or simply go to Command Prompt (Start > Run /Search for CMD) and enter ipconfig. The address you need should be next to Default Gateway under your Local Area Connection.
Alternatively, if you’re on a Mac, you can find the default address by going to Network under System Preferences. It is listed right next to “Router:” if you’re using Ethernet, or by clicking “Advanced…” and going to the “TCP/IP” tab if you’re using Wi-Fi should go. Next, point your browser at that address and enter your login details – it should be a combination of “admin” and “password” or blank fields if you haven’t changed the default settings. Here is a default username and password list (PDF) that you may find useful, but we recommend that you change it later.
Once inside your router’s administrative console look for the section related to connected devices or wireless status. In my old DIR-655 from D-Link it’s available under Status > Wireless, but you’ll find it in Netgear routers as “Attached devices”, under the DHCP clients table on Linksys routers, “Device List” if you tomato Firmware you are using. , and so on.
This should provide a table with the IP, MAC address and other details of each device currently connected to the router. Check that list against your gear to find any intruders. You can find your computer’s MAC/IP address by going to the command prompt again and entering ‘ipconfig /all’. The MAC address will be shown as the physical address. I’ll let you explore it for mobile devices like smartphones and media players because I can’t possibly list all the options.
The best and simplest solution is to set a strong password using WPA2 or WPA – WEP is very easy to crack so avoid it if possible. There are a few other methods you can use to increase security, such as turning off SSID broadcasting (which prevents it from advertising your network name to nearby Wi-Fi devices) or allowed by MAC address or Set up a filter for blocked devices. This won’t stop the most determined intruder, but it will slow him down.
This should be more than enough for most users, but if you really need to find out who’s breaking into your network, it’s possible to pinpoint its physical location using a tool called MoocherHunter. You’ll need to burn a Live CD to boot your laptop and walk around tracking unauthorized wireless clients. As per the program’s description, it detects the traffic sent across the network and can locate the source within 2 meters accuracy.
Needless to say, we are not suggesting that you take matters into your own hands, but it can come in handy when someone is getting you into trouble with the authorities using your network for illegal purposes. Be it – or just have a good story to tell.
Bonus: Benefits by setting up a paid Wi-Fi hotspot
If it doesn’t bother you that someone is piggybacking on your connection then you might get something in return, right? Chillfire is a good third-party firmware option if you want to run a public hotspot, as it allows you to offer paid or free Internet access points from your consumer router. Alternatively, you can get a Fonera router, which gives you free roaming to Fone spots around the world in exchange for sharing a little bit of your WiFi at home.