There are a couple of things you can do to protect your wireless network against freeloaders and intruders. Probably the best thing right now is to make sure it is protected by a security protocol that is offering the best protection. That is usually WPA2 right now. You also need to make sure that the key is significantly long enough so that it can't be easily guessed (your cat's name) or brute forced.
While that means that it is somewhat of a burden to enter on new devices that you want to connect to the network, it makes sure that brute forcing the password is not really an option anymore.
There are a couple of other things that you can do, for instance position the router in a way that reception is bad or not available at all when you are not in the apartment or house. Since that depends largely on the antenna used, it is possible to pick up a signal regardless of that.
There is also wifi blocking wallpaper and paint available, but that is usually something that companies may want to do.
Another effective option is to monitor your wireless network for new connections. SoftPerfect WiFi Guard is a free program for the Windows operating system that can aid you with that. The program monitors all wireless connections which it displays in the main window.
Here you find information about the IP address used by the devices, the MAC address, the name, and additional information. The listing provides you with information about all connections, so that you can easily distinguish your own devices from devices that someone else may be using to connect to your wireless network. The program scans the network automatically from time to time and provides you with the means to run manual scans whenever you want to. Devices are pinged automatically which helps you detect systems behind firewalls or other security that blocks ping requests.
Since it is not really practicable to have the window open 24/7, it ships with a notification system in place that informs you whenever unknown devices connect to the wireless network.
The program is dead easy to use and a great option if you are using wireless connections to connect to the Internet, especially if you suspect someone else taking advantage of your wireless setup.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.