It’s time to stop your neighbors from siphoning off your bandwidth—possibly putting you in legal jeopardy as well—by giving out your Wi-Fi password or hosting an open Wi-Fi access point. Here’s how to do it.
If you suspect someone is using your Wi-Fi network without permission but aren’t sure, you can usually check a list of connected devices by logging into your router’s interface. The specifics of how to log in and check will vary depending on the device manufacturer, so check the documentation for your router.
- For the time being, unplug your router or modem.
Locate your router and unplug it from its power source if you need someone to stop using your Wi-Fi immediately—as in right now. It will shut down and no one will be able to access it.
You could leave your router plugged in but unplug your cable or DSL modem if you want to configure your router while temporarily preventing internet access (if you have one). You can plug the modem back in after making the changes we’ve recommended below, and the bandwidth thieves will be locked out.
- Open Wi-Fi Access should be turned off.
It might be time to reconsider hosting an open Wi-Fi access point that allows people to connect without a password. It could cause you problems or compromise your data security if someone using your internet connection does something illegal online.
To fix this, go to your router’s configuration interface and enable encryption (WPA2 Personal or, better yet, WPA3 Personal, if available) as well as a connection password. Don’t reveal your strong Wi-Fi connection password to your neighbors after you’ve set it up. You’ll need to type it in on each device you want to connect.
- Make Use of a Current Encryption Standard
WEP, WPA1, and WPA2-TKIP are examples of older Wi-Fi encryption methods that are considered insecure. Using brute force methods, WEP is particularly easy to crack. If you’re still using one of these, it’s time to upgrade to a safer encryption method. WPA2-Personal (or WPA3-Personal if it’s available) is the best option.
Using a good, modern encryption standard will keep out potential nearby hackers and prevent your internet activities from being eavesdropped on by your neighbors. Disable WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) as well, as it is insecure and could provide a point of entry for a hacker-savvy neighbor.
If your router doesn’t support the latest encryption methods, it’s time to replace it.
- Disable the Guest Account on Your Router
Many Wi-Fi routers allow you to create guest accounts that are separate from your main LAN, have a different password, and are subject to other restrictions.
If a neighbor is stealing your Wi-Fi by using a guest account, you’ll need to disable it in your router’s configuration interface.
Even if your neighbors don’t use a guest account, you should probably disable it if you don’t use it. They are frequently insecure.
- Change your Wi-Fi password if you haven’t already.
It’s time to change your Wi-Fi password if this becomes a problem. You’ll need to log into your router’s interface to do so. Look for a setting called “Wi-Fi Setup” or something similar. You’ll see a space to enter a new password somewhere near the SSID. Select a strong password and make the necessary changes to your router, including rebooting it if necessary.
You’ll need to enter this new password into the computers and devices that connect via Wi-Fi at your location once the router is back online. Smartphones, tablets, game consoles, televisions, smart home devices, and other electronic devices may fall into this category. Keep this new password private to prevent unauthorized access to your Wi-Fi.
- Managing the Social Ramifications
If you previously shared your Wi-Fi password with a neighbor and then change it, they may ask for it again later. If you have a good relationship with your family, you could tell them you’ve decided to limit internet access to family members only from now on. There is no need for further explanation.
If you pay for your internet service, you have the right to control who uses it without having to justify it.