How to Stop People From Using Your Wi-Fi

A cable being unplugged from a router.
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Getting people off your Wi-Fi is really easy; it's the detecting part that's hard. Unfortunately, if someone's stealing your Wi-Fi, you might not even realize it until weird things start to happen.

If you think someone is using your Wi-Fi, you should first verify that it's happening, and then decide how you want to block that person from using your Wi-Fi in the future.

A few reasons you might suspect that people are on your Wi-Fi without your permission is if everything is running slowly, you see weird phones or laptops connected to your router, or your ISP is reporting strange behavior on your network.

How to Lock Down Your Wi-Fi

Blocking someone from your Wi-Fi is as easy as changing your Wi-Fi password to something much more secure, preferably with WPA or WPA2 encryption.

The moment the router requires a new password that the connected devices don't know, all the freeloaders will be automatically kicked off your network, unable to use your internet—unless, of course, they can guess or hack your Wi-Fi password again.

As an added precaution to help protect yourself from Wi-Fi hackers, you should not only avoid weak passwords but also change the Wi-Fi name (SSID) and then disable the SSID broadcast.

Doing these two things will make the person not only believe that your network is no longer available because the network name changed, but they will not even be able to see your network in their list of nearby Wi-Fi because you've disabled it from showing up.

If security is your top concern, you could implement MAC address filtering on your router so that only the MAC addresses you specify (the ones that belong to your devices) are allowed to connect.

Similarly, you could limit DHCP to the exact number of devices you regularly use so that no new devices are allowed an IP address even if they manage to get past your Wi-Fi password.

Remember to reconnect your own devices after changing the Wi-Fi password so that they can use the internet again. If you disabled SSID broadcasting, too, follow the link above to learn how to reconnect your devices to the network.

How to See Who's on Your Wi-Fi

  1. Find the DHCP settings, "attached devices" area, or a similarly named section.

  2. Look through the list of connected devices and isolate the ones that aren't yours.

These steps are pretty vague, but that's because the specifics are different for every router. On most routers, there's a table that shows every device that DHCP has leased an IP address to, meaning that the list shows the devices that are currently using an IP address given out by your router.

Every device in that list is either connected to your network through a wire or is accessing your network over Wi-Fi. You might not be able to tell which are connected over Wi-Fi and which aren't, but you should be able to use this information to see which devices, specifically, are stealing your Wi-Fi.

For example, say you have a phone, Chromecast, laptop, PlayStation, and printer all connected to Wi-Fi. That's five devices, but the list you see in the router shows seven. The best thing to do at this point is to shut off Wi-Fi on all of your devices, unplug them, or shut them off to see which ones remain in the list.

Anything you see in the list after shutting off your network devices is a device that's stealing your Wi-Fi.

Some routers will show the name the connected devices use, so the list might say "Living Room Chromecast," "Jack's Android," and "Mary's iPod." If you have no idea who Jack is, chances are it's a neighbor stealing your Wi-Fi. 

Tips and More Information

If you still suspect that someone is stealing Wi-Fi from you even after completing everything you read above, something else might be going on.

For example, if your network is really slow, while it's true that someone else might be using it, there's also a good chance that you're just using too many bandwidth-hogging devices at the same time. Gaming consoles, video streaming services, and the like can all contribute to a slow network.

Strange network activity might at first seem like someone got a hold of your Wi-Fi password and is doing unscrupulous things, but everything from torrents, obscure websites, and malware could be to blame.