How to Keep Leeches From Using Your Wireless Hotspot

Secure Your Hotspot to Keep Data Leeches Out

Our data plans seem to be in constant flux. One day they’re offering an Unlimited plan, the next day they’re taking it away and replacing it with a 10 GB shared plan. Wireless providers don’t seem to be able to make up their minds, and we the consumers are caught in the middle.

Now that the era of truly unlimited data plans seems to have come to an end (at least at this point in time), we consumers have to keep an eye on our data usage like never before.

The main reason: we don’t want to end up with data overage charges. For the most part, we do a pretty good job at managing our data plans for our phones because we gauge in our heads what we can and can’t do with our data allowances.

We know that trying to stream all 3 Godfather movies over 4G LTE while we’re at the gym is probably a bad idea. Our phones are not the issue, the main problem that keeps us up at night is the data we use on our mobile hotspot.

The wireless hotspots sold by most providers are typically designed to be able to share our 3G or 4G data connection with 1 to 15 Wi-Fi devices at once. If you do the math in your head, a lot of data can get used up very quickly when multiple devices are connecting to our hotspots via Wi-Fi.

If you use your hotspot at work or at another high-traffic location and don’t secure it well, then anyone nearby could potentially connect to it and suck away all that  precious data that you’re paying your hard earned money for, and guest what?

They don’t care about your data overages because they aren’t the one paying the bill, you are.

Your Wireless Provider Is Probably Not Concerned About You Exceeding Your Data Allowance

Most wireless providers don’t really give you an easy way to cut off your data usage when you hit your limit. Some do (via a parental control method), but most don’t make this an easy or intuitive process.

Providers will go so far as to show you a bar with your data usage on the screen of the hotspot itself, but won’t add a simple “cut me off when my limit is reached” option to the device settings. Why not? Deep down, I think they probably secretly WANT you to go over your limit.

How Can You Keep The Wireless Leeches From Sucking Your Data up?

Make Sure WPA2 Encryption Is Enabled:

Most if not all wireless hotspots have encryption turned on out of the box because they know that most users don’t want their hotspots to  become an all you can eat data buffet as soon as they turn it on. This doesn’t mean that it can’t be disabled, if someone happens to get a hold of the admin password before you can change it.

You should periodically check to make sure your hotspot is still running with encryption (WPA2 or better) turned on. You can check this by looking for a padlock icon next to your network’s name in the list of available wireless networks shown on your device.

Set a Strong Wireless Network Name And Password:

Many hotspots have default passwords based on a portion of the MAC address of the hotspot itself. This MAC address is typically listed on the label of the device near it’s serial number.

Anyone who has physical access to where your hotspot is located could pick up the device, read the MAC address, and use it to log onto your hotspot. For this reason, you should always change the wireless network name and password to something other than the default.

Turn Off Display of Wireless Network Name and Password:

Many wireless hotspots display the wireless network name and password on the screen of the hotspot itself to make it easy for the owner to be able to connect to it. One of the first configuration changes you should make is to turn off the display of the wireless network name and password and also disable the display of the admin password.

Lock Out Configuration Changes From The Device:

It’s also a good idea to lock out configuration changes from the device’s screen. Doing this prevents someone from picking up the device and changing configuration settings without logging onto the administrator console of the hotspot with the admin password.

Physically Lock up Your Device if at All Possible:

The ideal and most secure way to protect your hotspot from leeches is to physically secure your hotspot behind lock and key because if some one can get to it, they can perform a factory reset and log onto the device with the default wireless access point credentials. The only thing that might possibly prevent this reset from allowing them access is creating a SIM card PIN number that is required every time the device is restarted.