By Kevin M
A few months ago a friend of mine was tooling around on our home computers and made a discovery that stunned me.
“Someone else is using your connection” he said, almost casually.
I of course, was anything but casual at the news. “Who would be doing that?” I asked, trying to sound intelligent, but failing miserably.
“Just about anybody with a laptop computer within a couple hundred feet of the house” he answered. “Someone with a laptop in their car parked on the street near the house could do it.”
Have you ever heard news that was so shocking that logic failed you? This was one of those moments for me. I couldn’t think of a series of questions that would glean the information that would put my mind at ease. The implications of what had been revealed that day were so far reaching that I did what humans have been doing for thousands of years upon hearing disturbing news: I put it out of my mind.
Now if you’ve ever read any of my previous posts, you know that I’m a self declared techno-idiot, and I’m not joking about that. The average high school student knows more about computer related matters than I do, so if I make any comments that seem ridiculous, or pose questions where the answer is obvious, just consider the source!
The offending piece of equipment
A couple of years ago my wife and I were looking to provide our kids with their own computer, and their own internet connection. After checking with our ISP provider we decided against the high cost of adding a second internet line to the house. They would charge over $200 to install the new line, then bump our monthly internet bill by something on the order of $30 per month. That wasn’t happening.
On the advice of my boss, we added a router to our computer and ran a line to the kids machine and hooked them in that way. The unit, a Linksys Wireless-G Broadband Router, works beautifully, only cost about $50 and carries no recurring charges—problem solved, money saved!
Now the operative word in the name of the router is “Wireless” but remember, I’m a techno-idiot so I assumed this to be a superfluous descriptive word, in much the same way that sports cars carry certain random letters like Z or G in the model name. The router had wires—several of them in fact—coming out in all directions, so there was no way that it could in fact be wireless. Are you following my logic?
What I’m hoping to find out
Since I’d put the whole strangers-tapping-into-our-internet-line so far out of my mind that I’d virtually forgotten about it, I was surprised that my daughter got an instant internet connection.
Then it hit me…
Ah yes, THAT’S what WIRELESS means! She can tap into the connection anywhere in the house. Then it hit me, again. So can anyone else!
I’m familiar with Wi-Fi connections in public places like restaurants and coffee shops, but I never realized we have the equivalent at home. I thought that was some sort of add-on service or gadget you had to pay extra for.
But here we are at home, and anyone with a laptop within a reasonable distance of our house can hook up to our internet line for free!
Here are my questions:
- Can outsiders pirate our files and information?
- Does it figure into our band usage (some ISP’s will charge extra if the usage gets too high)
- Can they see what I’m looking at?
- Can I see what they’re looking at?
- Is there a potential for blended connections, or something like telephone “party lines”?
- Can outsider usage impair our connection in any way?
- How do you stop it?
- Do we even want to stop it?
- Is there a way to prevent outsiders from using the connection without interfering with our own laptops and desktops?
- Is this even a problem???
I’m open to what ever advice anyone can offer!