Let's get one thing straight up front: at some time or another, we have all used someone else's wireless connection to check our email, get directions, or find something entertaining during a less than exciting vacation.
With that being said, there are others who abuse the privilege: The college student next door who decides to use your connection to download hi-def porn. The tweenager who has to have that bootleg Miley Cyrus album. A novice hacker who decides it would be fun to use your gateway for some "exploration".
In this article, I will give you a few steps that will help you reclaim your bandwidth, make your network more secure, and give freeloaders the boot.
1. Change the default username and password on your router.
Many security problems start with the fact that most people do not know how to log into their router to start with.First, you must open up your browser, and type the IP 192.168.0.1 (or 192.168.1.1 for linksys routers). It will bring up the login screen automatically. All manufacturers have a default password. For example, dlink's default username is "admin" and the password is left blank.
Check your user manual or the underside of your router for your manufacturer's defaults.
Go the administrative or settings tab once you have logged in, and change it to whatever you would like. Change the username to something unrelated to your first or last name. Try to add a password that has at least one number in it.
Do not forget to change the "user" username and password as well. While you can not change anything while logged in as "user", this can let experienced freeloaders see your settings, and find a backdoor more easily.
2. Change your SSID.
What is an SSID? In layman's terms, it is your router name. The router will usually come failed to the name of the manufacturer, and when the SSID is "Belkin54G", it screams "free internet access". Change it to something boring, and unexciting. This is not time to play "Pimp Your SSID". An unusual or exciting name will automatically attract freeloaders. You can usually find this in the "settings" tab as well.
3. Create a WPA Key
This is simply an 8-63 character password that is stored on your router. In order for anyone to access your connection, they must first type in the correct password. To set up your WPA key, log in to your router. Once there, select the "wireless" tab. Then, enable encryption.
If there are two types of WPA, select "WPA-PSK". This is the one intended for home use. Enter the password. Restart the router.
The next time you (or anyone else) tries to access the router, you will be asked for the key. Your computer will save the key for the next time you access the network, and things should go smoothly from there. You are now moderately secure.
4. Turn down the juice.
Your router is automatically configured for the maximum transmission range. This is great if you live in an 1800sq. foot house on an acre of land. If you live in an apartment or townhome, however, most of your neighbors will get strong signal as well. To prevent this, log into your router. Go to the "settings", or "system" tab, and turn down the signal (or transmission) strength to 50 or 75%. This should give you more than enough signal to get access anywhere in your apartment, and keep the guy down the hall from siphoning your bandwidth
5.Enable MAC based filtering.
By combining this step 3, you can create a highly secure home network. This step is for those who do not mind reading the manual, and playing around with the settings a little. Every wireless card, network card, and modem has what is known as a MAC address. No device has the same MAC address. This is quite possibly the largest step you can take towards making your network secure.
This is a pretty technical step, so I will refer you to your user's manual for specifics. I will tell you in broad terms what you will have to do.
Make sure that all the computers that you want on your network are on, and connected to your router.
Log in to the router.
Under the "Security" tab, you find a section that will usually be called "Network Filters" or just "Filters".
Select "Filter by MAC Address".
One by one, add the MAC addresses of your wireless (and wired) devices to the table. Most routers will allow you to add up to 20 addresses.
If you can not find your MAC address, click here for a tutorial.
Then select "Allow Access for these PC's".
Save your settings, and let the router reboot.
Your PC's will be able to access the internet as usual, everyone else will be shut out.
This should eliminate casual and intermediate users of the internet from even being allowed access to router login.
If you make a mistake, and lock yourself out, just do a hard reset of your router, and it will go back to the factory defaults.
These are generic instructions, but they hold true for most consumer level routers currently on the market. For more in-depth instruction, always consult the user's manual that came with your router.
Hopefully, this will ease some of your bandwidth woes, and allow you to get the best out of the internet access you are paying for. So kick those freeloaders to the curve, and then make sure they can not get signal.
I'm gonna go download that Miley Cyrus bootleg.