Ever wonder, “Who is using my Wi-Fi?” It’s a good question. Wi-Fi signals are relatively easy to hijack. In Linux and other Unix-based operating systems, it’s fairly easy to check your Wi-Fi connection and see if anyone is using it. In Windows, although a little more involved, it’s still pretty easy. There are two ways that you can check to see who is using your Wi-Fi signal using Windows. The first is to access the router setup and management console. The other is a program called My Wi-Fi. Read on for descriptions of both.
Why Making Sure Your Wi-Fi is Secure Is Important
You pay good money for your Internet connection. If you’re like me, you tend to use every bit of the speed that you pay for and can’t afford to share it with unknown people. There’s also the issue of attacks. All a malicious person needs to do is get into your network and they can wreak all sorts of havoc with it and with your life.
Once someone with malicious intent gets into your network, they can do basically whatever they want. They can piggyback your signal as you do your banking. They can log into your email and send messages using your name. They can even change all your passwords and lock you out of everything, at least for a little while.
Your Router’s Management Console Has Tons of Tools
All routers have a management and configuration console that is replete with tools to help you secure the connection and check to see who is using it at any given moment. I’ve written articles on Belkin routers and Linksys routers. I’ve also put together a generic article on how to gain access to your router. If you want the full scoop, I suggest checking out the article that pertains to your router and then coming back here. If you want just the basics, read on.
In order to access your router, you need to know what address it’s using, just like if you want to go to a friend’s house for the first time, you need their address. You can find out the Internet Protocol (IP) address of your router quite easily:
- Click the Start button
- In the menu that pops up, type CMD in the Run/Search line and hit .
- In the black window that pops open, type ipconfig (Windows Vista and Win7) or winipconfig (XP) and hit .
A list of strange looking numbers and such will come up after a second or two. You’re looking for the address of the Default Gateway. This will be something like 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1. The only true hard and fast rule here is that the first two octets (numbers before the decimal point) will be either 192.168 or 10.10. These are known as “non-routable IP addresses” and are not available to or seen by the outside world, hopefully. Write down the Gateway and your computer’s IP address.
Now, to get to where you can gain access to your router, simply type the number that shows up into the address bar of your browser and hit . Now, hopefully you or whoever set your network up for you changed the default username and password. Input those and hit or Login. If you’re still using the default credentials, use them, and then change them once you get in. You should see a screen that at least vaguely resembles the one in the picture above. It’ll probably have a little less detail because I have a professional router. Once you’re in, you will need to look either the Status or Network tab, depending on the brand of router you have.
Once there, you will see something like DHCP Leases or Network Connections. (DHCP is Dynamic Host Control Protocol. This assigns addresses to computers and devices as they log into to the network.) Count the number of connections. If you see ten connections but only have nine Wi-Fi-enabled devices at home, someone is hijacking your Wi-Fi. I’ll get to how to combat that below.
Use ‘My WiFi’ to Check — Who is Using My Wi-Fi
If what I’ve mentioned above sounds like too much work, not to worry. There is a small program called My WiFi that will do all the checking for you. All you have to do is download, install, and run the program. There’s a very short setup process after installation, but checking who is using my Wi-Fi is as easy as a single click of a button. The scan may take a few minutes.
Now comes the hard part. Remember above how I showed you how to determine the address of the router? You need to do that on every computer in the house to determine whose computer has what address. Finding out that information on a phone is a little more difficult, so I would recommend turning each mobile device off one at a time and seeing which address/device drops off and pops back up. As each device pops up, change the description of it to something you recognize. Any device or computer that doesn’t drop off and pop backup is someone hijacking your Wi-Fi. Remember, if you have a newer TV or gaming console, you’re going to have to power cycle them, too.
How to Protect Your Network
No network is 100 percent secure. It’s just impossible. However, you can do things to make it as secure as possible. The Digital Landing staff has put together an informative article that tells you how to make your network secure. However, they missed one critical step which is to limit the number of available addresses the router can assign.
To limit the available IP address pool and hard code addresses to computers, you need to get back into the router. Once there, find the screen that says DHCP and DNS and decrease the number of available addresses, and put the range somewhere in the middle of 001-255.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons