It may be hard to imagine, but just a mere 20 years ago, the Internet was nothing more than a novelty — a way for incredibly smart college professors and researchers to share information, and for a few people to network across the newly developed World Wide Web. E-mail was nothing like it is today. The primitive e-mail systems found at universities or even through accounts offered with the first Internet service providers (ISPs) such as Prodigy and America Online were often difficult to use.
Fast forward to 2009 and things have changed significantly. Back in the day, you paid for Internet access by the minute. That’s not the case anymore. Like virtually every technology, changes occur quickly and often for the better. On top of that, the technology becomes cheaper and easier to use. The Internet has certainly gone through this transformation. The most recent advance in digital communication is wireless internet or WiFi. Found in coffee shops, libraries and airports throughout the world, WiFi has made using the Internet almost as common as using your cellular phone — which in itself is technology that exploded over the past decade. Unfortunately, unsavory activities inevitably find a way to enter even the most benign settings like the Internet, and that’s (probably) why you’re here.
Chances are you’re reading this article because you suspect someone is piggybacking or using your WiFi without your permission and you want to learn how to determine if you’re correct. When wireless squatters steal your WiFi, they slow down your bandwidth and what’s worse, they can even steal information off your computer or infect machines on your network with a virus. Fear not, this article will give you the ammunition to fight back. Let’s begin by taking a quick look at what makes up your WiFi network so you can prepare yourself to take control of the Internet connection you pay for.