Some people think a little stolen Wi-Fi or “wireless piggybacking” isn’t a big deal. However, if someone is borrowing bandwidth, not only are they using bandwidth you paid for, but they may also be taking your data. When someone logs into your Internet connection, they are logging onto your network and are potentially able to harvest information from the files on your system. Even if you don’t see someone surfing the web for free as a negative, stolen files are definitely not good. But how do you know if someone is pilfering your signal? Look for these three signs:
01. Your connection is slow or fades out. Sometimes your internet speed is slow even if someone isn’t stealing your Wi-Fi, but if it happens often or at the same time every day, it’s a good sign that someone might be poaching your signal.
02. You live in an urban area and your network isn’t password protected. Someone may not be stealing your Wi-Fi constantly, but the odds of it happening are great. From my apartment, I pick up 22 wireless networks, and 21 are password protected.
Eventually one of your neighbors, their guests, or a casual passerby will want to use the internet to find a movie showing or to steal your information. If they were in my building, they would turn to the one unsecured network. If you don’t set a WEP key, someone is stealing your Wi-Fi – maybe not now, but soon.
03. You find a strange computer or device on your network. The best way to know that someone is piggybacking off your network is to catch them red-handed. Even if you have a protected router, your neighbor or a complete stranger could have figured out your WEP key.
If you run a current edition of Windows, you can visit the Control Panel and select “Network and Internet” and then “View network computers and devices” to see what is on your network. If you are using a Mac, click the icon for “My Network” in Finder. If you find an unknown device in your network, set a WEP key if you don’t already have one, and if you do, change it.
Wi-Fi theft can be a very big deal. If a person is stealing your Wi-Fi, they can take your data (which can include personal information) along with your bandwidth. Keep your network secure by setting up a WEP key that would be hard even for someone that knows you to guess, and if you ever suspect again that someone is tapping into your signal, look for one of these three signs.
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