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Last updated: 20 August 2021
As we all know, using the internet comes with many risks. While most people are aware of phishing scams and computer viruses, an often overlooked issue is unwanted guests using your wi-fi. We’ve compiled some tell-tale signs that should alert you if someone is using your wi-fi without your permission and what you should do about it.
How to find out if someone is stealing your wi-fi
Speed slower than usual
One of the first things that should alert you to someone piggybacking off your connection is if you notice your internet seems slower that usual. This can be hard to identify due to the normal fluctuations in broadband speed throughout the day. If you do notice that something doesn’t seem right however, it could be a good reason to do a bit of investigating.
Check your router
If you are able to, try disconnecting all of your devices from your wi-fi connection. This should mean the light on your router stops flashing. If it continues to flash after you have done this, then there is someone else connected.
Most routers will also give you the option to see all of the different devices that are connected to your wi-fi. You can check this by typing the IP address of your router into a web browser and navigating to a list of connected devices. If you see something that you don’t recognise then you could have an internet thief on your hands. Unfortunately not every internet service provider (ISP) has this feature, meaning you may have to turn elsewhere for help.
Use an app
There are a host of helpful apps which can give you insight into whether you are the only one connecting to your wi-fi. These will, to varying degrees be able to access your network and feedback to you the devices that are connected to it.
A few of these will also provide a more detailed analysis of usage and any unusual patterns on your home internet network. Some of the most popular app options are Wi-Fi Thief Detector, Who is on my wi-fi and Wi-Fi Guard. The majority of these kinds of apps come free with only some of the more complex products requiring payment, so you should be able to get your problem sorted without having to pay out.
What can you do about it?
Change your password
Probably the simplest way to remove any unwanted guests from your network is to change your password. This will mean that everyone is kicked out of your wi-fi and will have to enter the correct password to log back in.
When picking a password always go for something strong that won’t be able to be guessed easily. It’s a good habit to get into doing this every now and again for general security and to periodically evict any freeloaders from your internet connection.
Remove users manually
You can also remove specific users from your network by accessing your router admin page. Find the section that says device filtering or MAC filtering, then you can add any devices which you don’t recognise onto a list of blocked devices.
This will work to a degree but may not be a long-term solution if someone is particularly determined to get access to your network as they are able to use a different MAC address.
Download WiFi security
There are a whole host of different types of software that will be able to prevent any unwanted users mooching off your internet. Using this kind of app combined with password changes and blacklisting of any unwanted guests should do the trick and mean that your wi-fi is secure. Having strong wi-fi protection software is also an important part of improving your overall internet security and is a great way to prevent you becoming a victim of identity fraud.