Stolen WiFi: How To Check and What To Do If Your WiFi Is Being Pilfered

Checking your WiFi can bring surprises - here's how to handle them.

Many of us might not notice if someone is using our Wifi without permission; learn how to check if someone is using your Wifi, and what steps you can take to stop it.
I've never checked our WiFi connection to see if anyone is using it - if our bandwidth is exceeded our ISP sends out an email and throttles our speed for a some time. A more reliable way of testing (and fixes) can be found in this article.

How To Check If Someone Is Stealing Your WiFi – And What You Can Do About It


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by jjolla (not verified) on 23. February 2011 - 9:41  (66958)

(i) WEP is trivial to crack, it appears. If so, then why do WiFi Routers offer this as a checkbox when configuring? If there are no warnings on the router box, surely some of the onus on having your bandwidth stolen is with the manufacturer ...

(ii) jumping into your house if you leave a window open is illegal because you need to be trespassing to do it -- and this is treated as illegal by common law. However, do these laws apply to your electrons zipping around the earth? what about zipping in and out of your router? what if you didn't know your electrons were taking the path through the router next door as opposed to some other wifi network? at the heart of this is the answer to the question: who owns your electromagnetic energy when it leaves your laptop?

by garth on 23. February 2011 - 14:32  (66965)

You have a point re the "electrons", but i tend to view it in the same way as any other utility supply. I think what is at the heart of the matter is intent: if i latch on to somebody else's wi-fi, then i am intentionally using a service that somebody else has paid for, and without their approval or consent. It's no different to me stealing somebody else's electricity supply, except that no physical connection exists. The principal is the same and i reiterate, people can try to justify theft any number of ways, but that does not change the reality.

by Jake Maverick (not verified) on 26. February 2011 - 0:26  (67095)

er, the difference is you dnt leave your electricity cables hanging over you back fence, or lying abt in the street where anybody can plug into that extension....if you did u really wd be giving the electricity you piad for away?
same if u choose to broadcast free wifi, nothing crimincal in accepting a gift, same way if i put a tenner in somebody's birthday's not 'theft by finding' or 'computer missues' of whatever else thes epoxy morons like to call's certainly not right to be prosecuted for theft when somebody has given you soemthing, or prosecuted for taking food out of a bin.....(that is happening now)
of course, if you take reasonable steps to lock it up like WEP then you are not giving it away! if the 'lock' has been broken then it is breaking and entering, 'course it doesn't count went the pigyobs do it....or any othe rgovt employee for that matter, including the binmen!

by in_detox (not verified) on 19. February 2011 - 11:47  (66719)

An additional warning to those that do access unsecured networks: perhaps someone is waiting for you, like a spider in its' web.

by GT (not verified) on 18. February 2011 - 16:23  (66673)

Leaving your wifi unsecured is VERY foolish. Allowing strangers access to your home network can be disastrous.

There is of course the possibility of a stranger accessing EVERYTHING that YOU are doing, including online banking, email etc... but, that's not the worst of it. They could be using your wifi bandwidth to download pirated software or music. Guess who goes to court to fight that battle, YOU!

Then there's the sexual pervert predator looking for kid porn. Just doing a search for it can land you in jail. Guess who goes to jail in that case? The owner of the IP address does. There is no way to prove it wasn't you, and they have the evidence that says it was, your IP shows the downloading of it, heck, the pervert might have even stored some of the porn on your system, just to keep himself from being tracked down. Why would they continue an investigation after finding what they are looking for? Oh, and you think your MAC address is proof it wasn't you that did it? MAC address spoofing is trivial. IP address spoofing CAN NOT BE DONE, PERIOD. You must have a valid IP address for two way communication, that's how it works. IP spoofing only works for DoS attacks, when return traffic doesn't matter.

Then, and this can put you in prison for life, threats to the President, coming from your IP address.

You still want to leave your wifi open to just anyone? If you do, you are a fool.

And by the way, WEP is better than nothing, but its like tying a shoelace to your bicycle to keep it from being stolen. It can be cracked in less than a minute. WPA on the other hand, virtually uncrackable (taking lifetimes to brute force) with a good password.

by Tunnelmath (not verified) on 17. February 2011 - 15:42  (66612)

Your stealing a car analogy is a poor one.
Try this one:

"If a sleeping Hobo left his trash can fire burning nearby and I sneak over to obtain warmth am I stealing from him?"

by garth on 17. February 2011 - 17:03  (66616)

I think not. Granted, two people sharing a fire does not diminish the fire, nor does it if ten people are sharing the same fire: this does not apply to wi-fi, where the service will degrade for the person paying for it if other people are freeloading. People can try and justify theft any way they like, but they are still thieves, and no amount of sleeping hobos will change that.

by Anonymous27 (not verified) on 16. February 2011 - 22:15  (66567)

I deliberately leave my wifi open for people to use.

by KickapooCandy (not verified) on 17. February 2011 - 0:48  (66571)

Thank you to those of you who do leave your WiFi open. There are some poor folks who appreciate that. Internet was the first to go after finding myself unemployed. I go sit in the car out in the driveway and hijack my neighbors signal. Sucks on cold rainy nights but hey at least I can check my email.

by TedC (not verified) on 16. February 2011 - 15:48  (66545)

I take exception with your term steal - if you're too dumb or too lazy to setup some security on your wifi, then maybe you shouldn't be using one. Without security YOU are making it available to anyone FOR FREE to use.

by rajoha (not verified) on 18. February 2011 - 22:28  (66686)

Someone once said, "Human beings have an infinite capacity for rationalization." C'mon, Ted, fess-up. Do you find yourself sometimes using other people's wifi without them... ah... maybe knowing about it?

by rhiannon on 16. February 2011 - 21:01  (66559)

There are plenty of people who don't know their WiFi needs to be secured. If it was set up by a company they may not know a thing about it.
Stolen Synonyms, Stolen Antonyms |
Definition: take something without permission

by Kuyog (not verified) on 17. February 2011 - 3:57  (66578)

it is part of the owner's responsibility to know the function of his equipment. this is like saying that you won't know how to fill up a car with gas because you bought it from a dealer who set everything up for you. RTFM.

by garth on 17. February 2011 - 7:13  (66588)

So if you forget to lock your car it's perfectly acceptable for me to take it right? Do the concepts of morality and decency not apply to the internet?

by garth on 16. February 2011 - 17:03  (66550)

If you take something somebody has paid for without their consent, it is theft. It doesn't matter how "dumb or lazy" a person might be, they are not responsible for your actions. An unsecure network is not an implied invitation for all and sundry to "come inside" any more than an open window is an invitation for anyone who might want to move into your house.

by Neil (not verified) on 16. February 2011 - 21:34  (66566)

Agreed. If you aren't paying for it, you aren't entitled to it. This is espcially true when ISP's charge extra fees for exceeding bandwith usage caps.

by MidnightCowboy on 16. February 2011 - 17:48  (66554)

Very true. Is akin to saying that supermarkets invite shoplifting because everything is on open display.

by Kuyog (not verified) on 17. February 2011 - 3:55  (66577)

not exactly. supermarkets have checkout counters and at least some sort of security (overt or covert) at the exits. an unsecured network openly broadcasts its vulnerability and lack of security.

by MidnightCowboy on 17. February 2011 - 6:23  (66586)

Computers have a checkout too, usually with a single operator and multiple choices for security :)

by DeniseH (not verified) on 16. February 2011 - 15:02  (66543)

Perfect this in my e-mails this morning. Today I'm having WiFi installed. Thanks!!

by rhiannon on 16. February 2011 - 21:02  (66560)

@DeniseH Glad to be of some assistance. :)

by nordin abdul ghani (not verified) on 16. February 2011 - 14:15  (66537)

no comment all the best.

by Jojo Yee on 16. February 2011 - 13:03  (66535)

Very helpful. Typed to check one wireless router, two connected to it, nobody else. Typed to check another wireless router, two connected to it and nobody else was using it. Safe so far.

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