How to Stop Freeloaders From Using Your Wi-Fi

Require authorization to allow only specific people on your Wi-Fi network.
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Unauthorized users jumping on your Wi-Fi connection not only devour your bandwidth, but can also wreck havoc on your network and use your connection to perform illegal activities. Properly configuring network encryption and setting a password is enough to protect your Wi-Fi from sophisticated hackers and common freeloaders. Anyone who doesn't know the password would have to physically connect to the network with a wired connection to gain access.

Connect the computer you're using to secure the Wi-Fi connection to the network either via Ethernet cable or wireless connection.

Determine the Router's Gateway IP address by pressing "Windows Key-R," typing "cmd," pressing "Enter," typing "ipconfig" in the command prompt and pressing "Enter" again. The Gateway IP address will be listed next to the "Default Gateway."

Open any Web browser, type the Gateway IP address in the address bar and press "Enter." You can close the Command Prompt window at this point.

Enter the username and password if the router requests it: the default values can usually be found on the router itself.

Click on the "Security" or "Wi-Fi" configuration listing in the router's interface; the actual wording of the feature varies between models.

Select a security mode from the drop-down menu if one is available. If possible, select WPA/WPA2.

Set the encryption type to TKIP if possible. As long as the setting isn't "off" the encryption is sufficient.

Set a password in the password field.

Save and apply the changes. All computers and devices using Wi-Fi will have to reconnect to the network using the network password.

  • The WEP security mode is practically worthless at keeping freeloaders off a network. According to ZDNet, hacking programs can break through the WEP standard in 20 to 80 seconds, depending on the encryption length. WEP is effective only against users who will stop trying to break in after failing to guess the password.
  • Routers often use the username "admin" and a blank password as the default values. If the router and all connected devices support the 5.0GHz frequency, you can adjust the router to broadcast only at 5.0GHz to keep some freeloaders from being able to even see your network. Many Wi-Fi devices support only the 2.4GHz frequency.
  • Using a strong password will help keep freeloaders off your network. Microsoft recommends using a password that is at least eight characters long, doesn't use any complete words and uses a combination of character types. Secure passwords feature uppercase letters, lowercase letters and keyboard symbols. Passwords substantially longer than eight characters can be almost impossible to crack. The FCC recommends disabling network name broadcasting for added protection; however, using this protection requires entering the SSID during the connection process.
  • You can check for unauthorized devices on the network by checking the "device list" in the router's configuration interface. Moving the router to a centralized location will keep the network from being accessible outside of the building.

Dan Stone started writing professionally in 2006, specializing in education, technology and music. He is a web developer for a communications company and previously worked in television. Stone received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and a Master of Arts in communication studies from Northern Illinois University.