Wireless Network, also called as Wi-Fi should be always secured. It is very important to check if someone is using or stealing from your Wireless network (Wi-Fi). This is important because of security risks associated with it. You definitely don’t want someone to hack into your computer or steal your personal information. The person may also be doing illegal activities by using your internet and you can be in deep trouble for those activities. Also if other person is using the internet, then speed will be divided between both of you and ultimately you’ll get slow internet speed. That person is using internet for free and you’re paying for it, this is not fair and can also be considered as stealing from the internet service provider (ISP).
Check If Someone Is Stealing your Wi-Fi
Therefore its a good idea to keep a check on your wireless network. The process may be different depending on your router’s manufacturer, but you’ll get a fair idea of how to achieve this.
Now there are two methods to try out out to know if someone is using your wireless network. The first method involves checking router logs. This can be done by logging in to your router’s web interface by typing the IP address in a browser window. Next you’ll be prompted to enter login credentials. Your login details can be referred from router’s user manual. But its recommended that you change the login as soon as you get into the router’s console.
All router’s web interface are different, depending on the manufacturer. You need to find something called “Attached Devices” for Netgear routers, for D-Link you need to go to Status > Wireless, for Linksys router’s you can find this in DHCP Clients table, for Tomato firmware you can find this in “Device List”. This should provide a list of IP addresses, Mac addresses and device names. You can compare these results with your own.
To compare, you need to know IP address of your computer. To do this, an easy solution is to do this from command prompt. Go to Start and type CMD (Windows XP users need to type CMD in Start > Run). Type ipconfig in the command prompt. Next, you’ll be presented by results, you need to find IP v4 address field. That is your LAN IP address that we’re interested in. Now check this IP address to the results that you got by checking “Attached Devices” in the above step. This should give you an idea of which devices are accessing the internet.
Check DHCP Clients List
The second method is to check the DHCP clients table. On some routers, you’ll need to enable this option and on some routers this option is enabled by default. Login to the router interface and find something like “DHCP Client List”. The screenshot in this article is taken from iBall Baton 150M router interface.
This table offers useful information like client name (computers name), MAC address, assigned IP and lease time. But note that this DHCP list is not much helpful, as it displays devices that have got IP address automatically from the router. A more experienced user can get into your network by using static IP address. Thus, this type of user won’t be displayed in DHCP list.
Wireless Network Watcher
Another method is to use network scanner. Wireless Network Watcher is a small useful utility that scans your wireless network and displays the list of all computers and devices that are currently connected to your network. For every device that is connected to your network, this utility displays information like: IP address, device name, MAC address, the company that manufactured the network card, and optionally the computer name.
This utility can only scan a wireless network that you’re currently connected to. It cannot scan other wireless networks. Download and run this portable tool. It will automatically start scanning and then it will output the results. From “advanced options”, you can also select which network adapter to use to scan. This is useful in rare cases when the this tool doesn’t detect the correct wireless network adapter.
This utility works on Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003/2008, Windows Vista, and Windows 7.
Security Tips for Wi-Fi
Now that you’re aware about how to track someone using your W-Fi, here are some important security tips to always keep in mind. These tips will help you to secure your Wi-Fi network.
Change Router’s Password
First things first. Change your routers default password. Every router comes with a default username and password. A person can easily find the default password by searching on the web. For example, many of Netgear routers have password as “password” by default. This default password can be easily found out, depending on the routers manufacturer. Therefore don’t commit the mistake to leave this default password unchanged. Go ahead, login to your router and change that default login credentials.
Use Network Encryption (WPA2 Preferred)
If you’ve purchased the router withing last 3-4 years, chances are that the router should be supporting more secure authentication protocol such as WPA2 (short for Wi-Fi Protected Access version 2). For now, this is the most strict security protocol that you can use. WPA2 encryption is very hard to crack and most secure, therefore this is the most recommended protocol. To check which encryption you are using, login to your routers interface again and navigate to Wireless security settings area.
Notice the security mode and authentication mode options. Click on the drop down box and select WPA2. Its also possible that some of the connecting devices on your network are not compatible with WPA2, therefore you can also select WPA+WPA2 option. This will ensure that your router is compatible with almost all of the devices on your network. In the Pre-shared key (PSK), you need to enter a strong password. A suggestion here would be to enter a password that is at least 15 characters long, include lower case and upper case letters, numbers and punctuations. Finally click on “Apply Changes” button.
Now whenever you want to connect any device with your Wireless network (router), you’ll need to enter this Pre-shared key (PSK), also known as password. This should make your network private and more secure.
Filter Devices Based on MAC Address
One more method to secure your network is to allow or deny access to the wireless network depending on the devices MAC address. There is one setting in many routers named as “MAC Address Control”. Basically this is a powerful security feature that allows you to specify which computers are allowed on the wireless network. You will need to enter MAC address of all the devices that you’re thinking to connect to your network. Any other device which is not in this filter list will be denied access.