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How to tell if someone is stealing your WiFi

How to tell if someone is stealing your WiFi

90% of UK households now have access to the internet. Spending time online isn't without risk though. Intruders can piggy-back your broadband connection posing a real threat.

Here's how to spot whether your WiFi has been stolen and what steps you can take to keep your home network safe.

Tobi Owens
From the Mortgages team
minute read
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Posted 7 JANUARY 2020

What are the signs your WiFi has been stolen?

If you notice any of the following, it could be a sign that neighbours, or even passersby, are using your WiFi:

A sudden slowdown in internet speed – it takes ages to stream a video or load a website page

Frequent downtimes – you keep losing your internet connection

The lights on your router are constantly blinking, even when you're not using any of your devices

Your password won't work. It's a very extreme case, but a hijacker could change your password and lock you out of your own network

If you have a capped data plan, but notice extra charges on your monthly bill

What are the risks of WiFi theft?

You may be understandably peeved if your neighbour is piggy-backing your WiFi, especially if you’re paying extra charges on a capped plan. 

But the security risks pose a far greater threat. If someone is stealing your WiFi, you’re more vulnerable to identity fraud, as they could gain access to your personal data. 

What’s more, if anyone has been using your WiFi network to conduct fraudulent and illegal activities online, then you’re responsible.

Cybercrime isn’t just the stuff of movies, it’s a very real danger – as shown by the statistics compiled by tech site Comparitech

  • In the past year, nearly 700 million people in 21 countries experienced some sort of cyber crime
  • More than 50% of all crimes in the UK are cyber crimes
  • Bitcoinmining is now a higher threat to home WiFi consumers than personal data theft 
  • In a 6-month period, over 1.8 million Bitcoin cyber-attacks took place through home network routers in several countries including the UK
  • An attacker could be using a network for an average of 146 days before being detected

How can you protect your WiFi from intruders?

It doesn’t matter if it's the cheeky neighbours pinching a bit of your broadband, or the more sinister and sophisticated hackers, here are some steps you can take to protect your home WiFi network:

  • Change your default network name (SSID) to a random network name, not something like ‘Doug’s home WiFi’ that can easily identify you personally
  • Change the password for your pre-shared network key and the longer the length, the more difficult it is to crack – aim for between 25-64 characters including capitals, numbers and/or special characters, which makes them tougher to crack
  • Turn on WPA2-PSK encryption on your router
  • Position your router in the middle of your home to prevent your WiFi being accessible from outside
  • Turn off your WiFi when you’re away from home
  • Enable your router’s built-in firewall
  • Ensure all of your devices are updated with the most recent software and have antivirus software 
  • Download a WiFi security-specific app, which tells you what devices are connected and monitors your network for suspicious activity
  • Google your router’s IP address to see a list of devices that have been using your network
  • Be vigilant – be wary of clicking on pop-ups and antivirus messages from unknown sources. Check that any website you visit is encrypted. You’ll see a green padlock in the address bar, and ‘https’ at the beginning of the URL

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These tips can help keep your WiFi secure and your personal information safe. Want to explore what internet options are available in your area? We can help you find the right broadband deal to suit your needs compare broadband packages.

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