How to tell if someone is stealing your Wi-Fi

While there are countless benefits to living in a hyperconnected world, we all know that spending time online isn’t without risks. In fact, a whopping five and a half million cyber offences are now thought to take place each year.

With Christmas upon us and Boxing Day on the way, many of us will be using our devices to buy bargains online – putting ourselves at potential risk of cyber crime. Here’s how to spot whether your Wi-Fi has been stolen and how to keep your home network safe.

Watch out for slow Wi-Fi

If your network isn’t secure, it’s vulnerable to data theft from neighbours and even passers-by. A tell-tale sign might be very slow streaming of videos or music.

And if your data plan is capped and someone has been using your data for downloading, or other intensive online activities that use large quantities of data, you could find that your monthly bill includes substantial extra charges.

Remember, if anyone has been conducting illegal activities online – such as fraud, phishing or accessing stored information – and they’re using your network, then you’re responsible. Even if you’ve chosen to share a password with a trusted neighbour.

Apps like Wireless Network Watcher, Soft Perfect Wi-Fi Guard, Advanced IP Scanner and Angry IP Scanner can monitor your network for suspicious activity.

You can also check by going online and logging on to your provider’s router administration page – you can do this by opening your browser and typing in the IP address for your router (these vary with each browser, but can be found via a quick Google search).

You’ll be able to see a list of the devices that have been using your network. If you see any unfamiliar names, it’s time to contact your internet provider immediately.

Choosing the right encryption

Most of us are aware that we need to choose a password to protect our home Wi-Fi network. Yet some networks are more secure than others.

WEP (Wireless Equivalent Privacy) is an early form of encryption that typically allows users to choose their own password. Most new routers come with WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access), which is a more complex system that’s far harder to hack into.

Even so, 19% of all Wi-Fi users worldwide are still using WEP encryption for their home network security and 89% of all public Wi-Fi hotspots are unsecured.

So, you need to be aware of whether your information is at risk when you’re using Wi-Fi while out and about. You can check your encryption by going to the Network Settings menu on your device; it should advise you of the security level of all listed networks.

Hacking awareness

If your Wi-Fi is stolen or compromised, you’re at greater risk of being hacked. Sensitive information stored by some of the biggest organisations in the world is frequently compromised by hackers. So how can you protect yourself?

It’s possible to keep your information safe, as long as you’re vigilant. Fake pop-ups and anti-virus messages look increasingly sophisticated and plausible, so one of the best ways to stay safe is to be vigilant about what you click on.

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