How to tell if someone is stealing your Wi-Fi

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Wondering if your home Wi-Fi network isn't as private as you thought? In this piece we're looking at some common signs you're sharing with an uninvited guest, as well as ways to confirm your suspicions.

We'll also be exploring the dangers of having unauthorised individuals on your home Wi-Fi, and, of course, how to prevent people from accessing your network without permission. 

Signs someone may be stealing your Wi-Fi

While a slow connection speed is one of the most obvious signs that something is amiss with your Wi-Fi network, there are many reasons why this may be happening. Other signs, however, are not as explicit in their cause:

Smart devices acting dumb

If your smart devices aren't functioning properly, or are refusing to respond at all, this could be a sign that someone who shouldn't be on your network is.

A particularly concerning sign is if they appear to be functioning autonomously, as is if their settings have changed without anyone in your household changing them.

Random ads or targeted content

By now everybody knows that you're getting tracked everywhere you go online, but what you may not know is that other users on your Wi-Fi can impact what targeted ads and content you receive. This is because devices on a network can often share many identifying factors. Because of this, information that doesn't align with anything you've searched can still lead to you being shown ads aligned with it.

This usually isn't a big deal if you're seeing things that make sense based on your household, but if you're being served completely random things, this could be a sign your Wi-Fi has been compromised.

You're getting flagged as a robot or spam

Another common repercussion of having someone steal your Wi-Fi is being flagged as a robot when visiting websites. Sites know how to detect spammers and random traffic, but they can't always tell the difference between devices on the same network.

You may also notice that your emails are going to spam rather than your friend's inboxes. This usually only happens if traffic from your network has engaged in activity that isn't particularly above board, so it's a solid sign that something is wrong. 

The dangers of having your Wi-Fi stolen

Having your Wi-Fi stolen may seem like a mere inconvenience, but it can actually be a rather significant safety issue for you and your family. For example, anyone on your home internet network may be able to cause havoc with:

Security systems

Most security systems and home security cameras are Wi-Fi enabled these days. While this makes it a whole lot easier for you to keep an eye on what's going on in your home, it also makes it far too easy for someone to spy on your family. This is because anyone who has access to your Wi-Fi will be able to see these devices, and possibly even get a peek at the feed.

Baby monitors

Along the same lines as the abovementioned security cameras but worth noting as a separate point are baby monitors.

Generally, anyone connected to your home Wi-Fi will be able to watch and possibly even communicate with your little one. This is dependent on the type of baby monitor you have, but still a significant concern.

Device control

If you've got smart devices in your home there's a strong possibility that anyone who is connected to your Wi-Fi can control them. This is particularly concerning for devices that are linked to sensitive data such as your card information, but is an issue no matter which device someone decides to control. It also often allows those with bad intentions to monitor your family through any cameras or microphones on these smart devices.

Network folders

If you store files in folders that are available for others within your household via the Wi-Fi, this means that anyone who has access to your network can also view these files. Essentially this is probably the equivalent of them going through your underwear drawer so you really don't want that.

Trojan attacks

Another security risk is that anyone who has access to your Wi-Fi has the ability to add files and programs to any shared folders. This makes it incredibly easy for those with nefarious intentions to plant trojan viruses that can steal data and possibly even your identity.

How to check if someone is connected to your Wi-Fi when they shouldn't be

There are three main ways to tell whether someone is stealing your Wi-Fi:


The first and easiest way to know whether someone is using your network when they shouldn't be is to disconnect all of your devices and see what your router does. If the lights are flashing or flickering something is still connected.

This method only really works if you're 100% sure you've removed all devices that are meant to be on the network, so you should probably skip this option if you've got quite a few. 

Log into your admin panel

If you're looking for an official list of all devices connected to your Wi-Fi, you can log into your admin panel and check the MAC addresses. Each device will have a unique one and if there are more than there should be, or you don't recognise any of the devices, this is a clear sign someone is on your Wi-Fi when they shouldn't be. 

Admin panels can be accessed in most cases by typing or into your browser. Every set up is different but you'll be able to find a list somewhere within your admin panel, usually under a title such as "client list", "wireless configuration" or "wireless status".

Use an app

These days there are also a range of applications that you can download to your phone to check who's on your Wi-Fi network.

While the list produced by an app won't be an official one, it is usually pretty accurate, so if there are devices you don't recognise, they're probably network invaders. 

How to prevent someone from stealing your Wi-Fi

Don't use the default network name

Your default network name is usually either going to be something to do with your internet provider or your name. Both options aren't the best, although the second is far more of a security risk than the first.

Have fun setting up your Wi-Fi network name, and select something creative that would be hard to link to your home without knowing you.

Have a complex password

A complex password is one of your best defences against unauthorised access to your home wireless network. If your password is easy to guess (or worse, non-existent) you leave yourself open to anyone and everyone joining your network whenever they feel like it.

Try to follow the best password practice and select one that has both upper and lower case letters, as well as at least one number and symbol.

Keep your router up to date

Keeping your Wi-Fi router up to date both in terms of hardware and software also improves the security of your network. This is best practice in all cases, but is especially important if you're worried about people who shouldn't be on your network accessing it.

Use strong encryption

Strong encryption helps prevent people from forcing their way onto your network. WPA2 is the most common option, but if you're able to set your Wi-Fi to use WPA3 the results are better.

How to kick someone off your Wi-Fi if they shouldn't be there

This section is short and sweet because the solution is as well. The easiest way to remove a device from your Wi-Fi that shouldn't be there is to simply change your network password.

This works great regardless of whether you're sure of an uninvited guest, or simply suspect one, as anyone and anything who's meant to be on the network can easily reconnect.

You can also blacklist devices from your admin settings, but we generally only suggest doing this if you're 100% sure the device isn't one of yours, or you'll be left wondering why your smart coffee machine won't connect.

Final word

Protecting your Wi-Fi is vital for the safety of your family. In this piece we've outlined how to do this, and we strongly recommend ensuring your security is strong so that no one can access your network if they shouldn't be there.

Jessica Jones
Written by
Jessica Jones
Jess has been writing educational content for almost ten years with a focus on lifestyle content. She loves coffee, dogs and all things fitness, and can often be found with her nose buried in a book and her music blaring through her earphones.

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