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4 ways to protect your home from Wi-Fi theft


Is someone you do not know about stealing your home Wi-Fi?

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Is your Wi-Fi slower than usual? Having trouble connecting? It's possible that someone is mooching your Wi-Fi on the sly.

Whether it's the guy in the upstairs apartment or bathroom running on a shady device, the misuse must stop. This guide wants to help you do just that.

Many of today's network routers feature companion mobile apps. These applications let you both monitor and control your network right from your phone. Check your router's user manual to see if it's an app for it. Products from many big players offer home network hardware that comes with this ability, including Google, Netgear and Asus.

Within the app, look for a menu called "connected devices" or something similar. You should be able to connect to your home Wi-Fi. Look through the list to see what's going on in your internet home.

If you see an active device that's not one you own, like a Windows PC when your family has only Macs, or maybe an unknown iPad that's a tell-tale sign

If your router is a few years old, it may not offer an app. Even so, you should be able to access a list of connected devices though your router's web portal. Check your manual for access instructions.

In the list of devices connected to your network, there are items with mysterious labels like "Unknown Device."

To identify these mysterious devices, start by looking for their MAC and IP addresses in your router's app or web portal. Then find that on your connected devices. Some Wi-Fi products actually have their MAC addresses printed on them, so you can find them in the device's settings.

Once you think you've got the gadget in question, unplug or disconnect it if you can. If it disappears from your list of connected devices, then that's your answer.

If the mystery item is currently idle – i.e. not getting used to metering data – and it remains that way every time you check it, try disabling it. The app for the Google Wi-Fi router displays this information. Some other routers from Buffalo and Asus also provide these details.

Pay close attention to any items that remain, even after you've powered down every conceivable device. Especially wary of unknown items like this are actively using network data. These could be unauthorized users or software. Disable them promptly just to be safe.

Ensure your Wi-Fi network is secure

If you are already using a password to access your home's Wi-Fi, stop now and set up password protection. By leaving your network open, anyone can use it and even steal your passwords.

Already using a password? So you've got your router.

It's always prudent to use the toughest security protocols available. For Wi-Fi, so that happens to be the most recently implemented, WPA2.

Stay up to date

Stagnant network software is a hack waiting to happen. Check for firmware and software updates regularly, and apply them when available.

This is not your average router, but anything connected to home Wi-Fi. Laptops, phones, tablets, lights switches, speakers, refrigerators, all are fair game.

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