Online games lag, the picture freezes during a job interview, and video streaming’s out of the question: It might be that your router can’t handle the load, but consider the neighbors as well. Are they surfing on your dime?
Find uninvited guests
To find out if broadband squatters are stealing your bandwidth, you need to check the list of devices connected to your network. Your router’s administration pages will show you that list, but unfortunately, not all manufacturers prioritize user-friendliness, and the list can be difficult to understand. An alternative option is to use Kaspersky Security Cloud‘s simple and straightforward home network map.
Here’s how: In the router settings or Kaspersky Security Cloud, open the list of connected devices and check it carefully. If you see an unfamiliar name next to the expected household members’ phones and laptops, plus any smart appliances you own, someone else is probably using your connection.
That’s not nice, of course, but surely it isn’t dangerous — right?
Well, it is. Your neighbor might think they’re just downloading WandaVision but accidentally grab some malware as well, which will then attack your devices over the Wi-Fi you’re unwittingly sharing. In fact, a Trojan can give attackers access to every bit of data you send over the Internet: credit card numbers, confidential work documents, and so forth. Even if you don’t mind a slower connection, you should probably kick squatters off your home network, and make sure they can’t come back.
Block unauthorized Wi-Fi access
Change your passwords. Passwords are still your first line of defense, so if for some reason you haven’t already, set a password for your Wi-Fi network. If you did, but outsiders are still connecting, change the password to guard against brute-force access. Make the password strong! Yes, every connected device will have to reconnect, but you shouldn’t have to enter that stronger password more than once per device.
At the same time, change your router’s admin panel username and password. Remember that factory settings are not unique — often the same combinations, such as admin/admin or admin/password, unlock any of the thousands of units of the same model. They’re very easy to find, posted online, and essentially an open invitation to hackers.
Disable WPS. Using WPS (Wi-Fi protected setup) simplifies the authorization process. Whereas setting up a wireless home network used to require at least a bit of tech savvy, routers now have WPS so users can simply press, click, or tap a button on the router, or enter an 8-digit PIN, to connect. The short PIN is extremely vulnerable to brute-force attacks, however, and entering it doesn’t even require admin panel access. In practice, it means anyone in network range can brute-force the PIN in a couple of hours (far less if you didn’t change the factory default settings).
Enable WPA2 encryption in the router settings to protect your data from interception.
The latest router models support WPA3, which provides even stronger security. Unfortunately, not all devices are compatible with it yet. If you have the time and energy, you may want to experiment, but even if you don’t, WPA2 will do for basic protection. You can change the type of encryption in the router settings.
For more home Wi-Fi security tips, click here.
What to do if your Wi-Fi is still sluggish
If you’ve kicked off any uninvited guests but your connection is still too slow, then the problem lies elsewhere. Try our tips for optimizing your home Wi-Fi.
Share bandwidth safely
If your home network is working great, and you actually want to share your Wi-Fi with certain neighbors, set up a guest subnet for them. That way you’ll be helping out some good folks without putting your own devices at risk.
Now that you’ve made your home network a digital fortress, turn your attention to security outside the domestic zone. For those times when you have to connect to another Wi-Fi network, secure your Internet connection so that no one can steal anything from you.