Wireless Piggybacking is the unauthorised use of someone else's Wi-Fi network. If someone is piggybacking on your connection, you may notice symptoms such as a slow internet connection, or frequent activity from the modem even when nobody in your home is using the network.
Some people may not be bothered by this, but you do run the risk of an unauthorised user downloading illegal material on your connection. This could cause you problems as the activity will appear to have originated from your internet address.
Spotting if someone is connected to your network isn't always obvious, although you can purchase special internet monitoring software that allows you to easily identify everything using your Wi-Fi signal.
You can view what's on your network in Windows by selecting Start, then clicking Settings, choosing Network Connections, My Network Places then View Entire Network.
This will show you every device connected, but it may be hard to tell what is what as they're likely to be sorted by their internet address rather than a clear name. If you count the number of connected devices you expect to see and find there are more on the list, you may have someone piggybacking.
Securing your network
The easiest way to stop people stealing your Wi-Fi signal is to password protect it.
- In the run section of the start menu, type cmd and press enter. A box will appear. Type ipconfig and press enter.
- Look for the line that says Default Gateway. There will be a number next to it - make a note of this. It's likely to be 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1
- Make a note of this number and then open your internet browser. Type this number directly into the address bar and press return. This will open your router's control panel.
You may need to enter a username and password. If you've never changed this and don't know what it is, it may appear in the router-s instruction book. You can also find it by entering the device's brand into the following website and looking for your model number. http://www.routerpasswords.com/
Please note: the following suggestions provide the best compatibility with other wireless devices, not the optimal security settings. This is because many current devices cannot operate with more advanced security features. The level of security given here will block your system to most unauthorised users and should be enough for the average home.
- The exact menu and option screen will differ according to the make of router. Your router's instruction booklet will give you more exact details on where each feature mentioned in this guide is located.
- Using the administration tools, first change the username and password. This prevents someone else from altering your settings.
- Find the section that allows you to change the SSID (Network name). Alter this to something that makes sense to you, but not something that clearly identifies where your system is located. Don't ever use your address or surname.
- Activate a wireless security mode. At the very least, you should use WEP. This provides a basic level of protection, but most other wireless devices are compatible with it. WPA or WPA2 are more advanced, but you may find you need to "downgrade" in order to allow all your other wireless gadgets access to the network.
- Set a password or "key" for the wireless security. You will need to enter this onto your other devices when they next connect to the network. Any time you need to add anything to your Wi-Fi connection, use this password.
- Save your settings and your network is now protected. You can change your settings any time you want to by following the above steps again. If you ever suspect someone has guessed your security password, change it as soon as possible.