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How To Protect Yourself Against Bandwidth Snatchers

Free WiFiHas your Internet connection suddenly come to a snail’s pace?

You try everything – dump your cache, restart your router, and make a semi-threatening to your Internet provider – but to no avail, videos still buffers at 144p. Then, just as you’re about to give up, your connection mysteriously speeds back up.

Beware. You might have a bandwidth snatcher for a neighbor.

Bandwidth Snatchers 411: How To Protect Yourself (And Your Business) From Modern Day Wi-Fi Pirates

Has your internet been inexplicably slow lately? If so, someone next door might be snatching your bandwidth.  

Bandwidth is the rate at which information flows through a network. If your bandwidth is already being divided between multiple devices and a foreigner taps into your connection you will probably experience a lag in your own internet speed (and if you missed it, check out our other Investigative Article: Speed Tests And How They Don’t Tell The Whole Story 

Today, we will be discussing a few ways to identify these bandwidth freeloaders, as well as, a few ways to protect you and your network.

Do I Smell Doritos And A College Dorm Room?

The other proposed sub-headline: Do you have a freeloader on your hands?

Doritos aside, the easiest way to tell if someone else is using your network is to power off all of your devices in your home or office. If the light on your router continues to flicker then someone or something is still connected to your network.  

This isn’t always the most accurate way, as bandwidth snatchers could pop on and off networks as they please and if you have many devices it’s difficult to confirm that all are disconnected properly. So, here are two in-depth methods to check for these bandwidth snatchers.  

Option 1: Download An App To See Who’s Accessing Your Bandwidth

There are many free apps out there that will look for unexpected Media Access Control (MAC) addresses and DHCP requests on your network, such as AirSnare, Fing, and Paessler PRTG Router Monitoring, just to name a few.

Option 2: Inspect Your Router Administration Page Manually

You can do this by typing “192.168.1.1” or “192.168.2.1” into the address bar. Look for the DHCP Clients Table where you will see a list of all devices connected to your network.

Also consider getting a personal firewall setup that guards against and reports intrusions on your computer.  If this is hitting home for you, here a great article we found on Top Rated Firewall Network Software.  If you’ve found an internet leech (or possibly a few), kick those suckers off and use these key steps to ensure a future of secure wireless connections.

  • Step 1: Add MAC addresses to all of your devices

Every wireless device is equipped with a unique Media Access Control (MAC) address.  It is important to make a log of all of your MAC addresses and add them to your wireless router’s settings.  This ensures that these, and only these devices can connect to your Wi-Fi network. Unfortunately, it is possible for a skilled hacker to decipher and spoof a MAC address and connect to your wireless network with this information, so it is important to use multiple forms of protection, such as creating a unique password for your router

  • Step 2: Encrypt your Wireless Network

Hackers have begun to take advantage of public databases of default usernames and passwords of well-known wireless routers.  For example, the default setting for Linksys equipment can be accessed by using “admin” as both the username and password. To enable encryption, open the wireless security settings on your router’s configuration page, if you have older devices, choose WEP, otherwise go with WPA2. Consider using a combination of numbers, letters, and special characters, as there are many free tools that even non-hackers can use to decipher these keys.

  • Step 3: Turn Off File Sharing

    • Mac Users: Open the Sharing Setup/Sharing (in Mac OS X) control panel. In the File Sharing/Personal File Sharing (Mac OS X) section, you should see the message “File sharing is off” with a Start button beside it or below it (Mac OS X). If you see a Stop button instead, click it. For Mac OS Classic, a dialog box will open asking “How many minutes until file sharing is disabled?” Select 0 and click OK.
    • Windows users: Double-click the My Computer icon on your desktop. Then right-click on the name of a drive, select Properties, click the Sharing tab, then click the Not Shared radio button. Repeat for each drive. Then double-click the Printers folder and repeat the same process for each printer. If you don’t have a Sharing tab, then you’re set; your operating system was installed without network sharing options.

DIY Wireless Router Modifications

If your wireless router’s range is going outside of it’s needed boundaries you may consider decreasing the signal range.  This can be done by changing the routers mode to 802.11g or by using a different wireless channel.

Then There’s The Old Anti-Wi-Fi Paint Option…

Wait, what? You can place the router in an area the restricts the direction of signals, or if you’re feeling artistic, apply a coat or two of Anti-Wi-Fi Paint.  

Yep. You read that right. The paint contains chemicals that block and absorb radio signals and can serve as another “layer” of protection from greedy bandwidth snatchers.

Turn It Off

You may also consider turning your router off completely when you are not using it. Hackers can’t hack into a network that is not live, and you also save on electricity. Win, win.

Update It

Lastly, make sure that your router is always running the latest firmware from the manufacturer. You can see what firmware your router is currently running under the router’s dashboard at 192.168.*.  

Adding MAC addresses to your router’s admin page, encrypting your network, and turning off File Sharing, and again, if you’re feeling a little artsy, painting your room with Anti-Wi-Fi paint are all great ways to protect you and your wireless network from Bandwidth pirates.

If you’re really want to go down the rabbit hole of learning more about wi-fi protection, internet speeds, and other elements to consider in your daily internet activities, check out these articles:

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