You were taught to share your toys as a young child, but this doesn’t apply to letting others use your Wi-Fi. The difference between sharing the plastic shovel and sharing the wireless connection is that with the latter, who’s to say that the “thief” won’t eventually crash in on your private information? And don’t forget that not only will this sharing possibly slow down your connection, but there could be legal repercussions if this moocher uses your connection for bad deeds.
How can you spot a moocher?
- Log into your computer’s router’s administrative console: Type its IP address straight into the browser address bar. Don’t know the router’s default address? Go to (Start > Run/Search for cmd) and then enter ipconfig.
- The address you want will be next to Default Gateway, under Local Area Connection.
- Mac users can locate the address by going to System Preferences, then beneath that, Network. If you’re using Ethernet it’ll be next to “Router:” and if you’re using Wi-Fi, click on “Advanced…” and go to “TCP/IP.”
- Point browser to the address; enter your login details. If you’ve never changed the default settings, the login should be a combination of “password” and “admin” or blank fields.
- Locate a section for wireless status or connected devices. Here you’ll find a table with details including the IP and MAC address of all devices currently connected to the router.
- To find moochers, check that list against your gear.
- To find the MAC/IP address of your computer, go to the Command Prompt and enter ipconfig /all. The MAC address will show as the physical address.
How to Help Prevent Mooching
- Implement a strong password; use WPA2 or WPA, not WEP.
- Turn off the SSID broadcast.
- An alternative to the prior point is to set a filter up for blocked or allowed devices by MAC address.
- Whenever on free public WiFi use Hotspot Shield to mask and encrypt all your data as it fly’s through the air.
If you want to find out just who is getting a free ride on your wireless, use MoocherHunter. This tool will locate the source within two meters of accuracy. Tracking down the culprit will prove handy if the moocher has been getting you in trouble by using your network for illegal activities.
On the other hand, if the lectures about sharing your toys still ring loud in your head, why not make lemonade out of this lemon by using a third-party firmware alternative to run a public hotspot? You can then offer for-pay Internet access points that come from your consumer router. Another option is to get a Fonera router. If you share some of your home WiFi, the Fonera router will grant you free roaming at Fon Spots all over the world.
Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.