How to Hide Your Wireless Network From Your Neighbors

Stop the leeching and protect your internet connection

The Wireless Connection
The Wireless Connection
neighbors using wifi

If you find that your home Wi-Fi has become sluggish, with streaming slowing to a crawl and devices dropping from the network, the bandwidth-hogging culprit might be your neighbor or even just someone passing by.

If your security measures are lackluster and you're broadcasting your Wi-Fi signal throughout the area, there's a good chance your internet is being stolen. Here's how to tell if someone is leeching your Wi-Fi and how to stop the freeloading.

Leeches who piggyback off your Wi-Fi network aren't just an inconvenience. In addition to eating up bandwidth, they can knowingly or unknowingly infect machines on your network with viruses and malware.

Check Your Router for Suspicious Guests

After you've noticed sluggishness with your Wi-Fi connection, it's time to find out if the problem actually is unwanted guests.

Your first step is to look at your router's activity. If you've already set up a username and password, log in to your router and check its Attached Devices or Device List to see what devices are connected to the router. (These might also be called "clients.") Are they yours? Is anything mysteriously labeled "Unknown Device"? If you can't account for a device on the list, search for an option to remove or delete it.

If you can't log in to your router, a free program called Wireless Network Watcher can show you what devices are connected.

Strengthen Your Network Security

Even if you booted suspicious devices off your network, it's critical to bolster your security settings so no one else can piggyback off your wireless connection.

Change the Default Username and Password

Your router likely came with a default admin username and password. It's critically important to change these settings immediately and use a strong password. If you don't, a cybercriminal (or moocher) could easily find the default login credentials for many popular router models

If you are using what you think is a unique username and strong password and have found unknown devices accessing your router, it's time to change your password and login credentials.

Update Firmware

Regularly check for firmware updates for your router and any device that's a part of your network, including laptops, computers and IoT devices. Firmware updates often include security patches, so it's important to stay on top of them.

Use WPA2 Encryption on Your Wireless Router

If you haven't already done so, consult your wireless router's manual and enable WPA2 encryption and set a strong password for the network. Encryption is a basic element of wireless security.

Encryption may already be turned on, but it's important you enable WPA2 encryption and not the older, outdated WEP encryption, which is easily hacked and leaves your system much more vulnerable.

Hide Your Network's SSID

The SSID is the name you give your wireless network. Make sure to change this name from its manufacturer set default, which is usually the brand name of the router (Linksys, Netgear, D-link, etc.). Making your SSID name as random and long as possible prevents hackers from using Rainbow Table-based attacks to try and crack your wireless encryption.

Routers can also hide their SSID, meaning the network won't show up for anyone searching for connectable networks. The address will have to be entered manually.

Set up a wireless MAC filter to "whitelist" devices you own, disabling access for anyone else.

Turn off the 'Allow Admin via Wireless' Feature

As an extra precaution against hackers, turn off the "allow admin via wireless" feature on your router. This will help to prevent a wireless hacker from gaining control of your wireless router. Turning off this feature tells your router to permit only router administration from a computer that is directly connected via an Ethernet cable. This means a user would pretty much have to be in your house in order to access the admin console of your router.