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Slow broadband - it may be the neighbours using your Wi-Fi
Thursday 23 October 2014 10:42:37 by Andrew Ferguson

Hyperoptic has looked into the borrowing or stealing (which is what it is when you don't have permission) a neighbours Wi-Fi network with a survey and the answers have implications in terms of security and really highlight that leaving hardware on default passwords or with easy to guess passwords is not a wise idea.

"It's a shock to discover so many people admitting to 'borrowing' their neighbours' broadband. ‘Stealing' other people's WiFi cannot be condoned and is highly likely to have a detrimental effect on the connection your neighbours are receiving - and paying for.

Many customers of standard broadband already battle with a slow and unreliable service that doesn't allow everyone in the home to make the most of the internet at the same time, let alone carry unwanted surfers sneaking on to the network.

Hacking your neighbours’ WiFi isn’t just wrong, it simply won’t cut it. As life becomes increasingly digitised, the need for broadband reliability – and for speed – cannot be ignored. Hyperoptic gives all residents in a property the chance to enjoy uninterrupted gigabit speeds simultaneously, no ‘borrowing’ necessary, and ensures they can do so long term; future-proofing their homes to be compatible with the internet technologies yet to come."

Dana Tobak, Managing Director of Hyperoptic

The survey which questioned a representative sample of 2,000 adults in Britain found that successful 'borrowing' of Wi-Fi varied by region, with London at 53%, Wales at 40%, Scotland 20% and Northern Ireland 27%. London may be at the top simply because of the population density, thus the ability to see the maximum number of Wi-Fi networks.

What we thought most interesting was the variation based on age, 18% of 18-24 year olds successfully guessed a Wi-Fi password, 42% of 25-34 year olds, 43% of 35-44 year olds, 35% of 45-54 year olds and 10% in the 55+ bracket. Finding out more why the difference between young adults and the other age ranges may be revealing, maybe young people are better at managing their online security thus making it harder for friends to guess access credentials, or they just know less about their neighbours so guessing silly passwords like the pets name is harder.

For those who may be unsettled by this apparent ease that people can borrow your Wi-Fi, ensure you are using WPA2 based encryption and that WPS is turned off on your (WPS is the handy push button method to link devices over Wi-Fi but it has vulnerabilities) and most importantly use a strong password. Something everyone should do is also run a software firewall on their various devices, which can protect you from others on your LAN.

With Christmas rapidly approaching a good tip instead of sharing your main Wi-Fi network key, is to use a wireless router or access point that allows you to create guest networks so that when you have friends staying over Christmas you can give them Internet access but keep your local network of devices separate.


Posted by TheEulerID over 2 years ago
You mean we're all budding Pennys from TBBT?

The results might have a little more credibility if it wasn't that they, shock horror, gain publicity for the company commissioning the story and can be given a slant that supports their business.

Of course, if your neighbour does get gigabit speed, even more reason to steal some bandwidth. After all, they are unlikely to notice...

nb. not to underestimate the importance of sensible security.
Posted by dogbark over 2 years ago
BT Wifi allows me to steal my neighbours bandwidth and they don't know a thing about it.
Posted by mike41 over 2 years ago
I'd like to know how many neighbours willingly share networks. Our BT BB has been so unreliable this year that I've been very grateful for permission to share my neighbour's excellent TalkTalk connection. Of course we would share ours with him if necessary. We look after each other's houses at holiday time, I suppose network share is not much different.
Posted by TheEulerID over 2 years ago
BT WiFi does not allow you to "steal" bandwidth. It's part of the Fon network, which is a mutual sharing system which requires and account. You can also opt out, so it's not compulsory.
Posted by AndrueC over 2 years ago
I'd be more worried about the security implications than the impact on bandwidth. Unless your router is specifically set up as a hotspot you're going to be letting other people onto your LAN.
Posted by uniquename over 2 years ago
Re TheEulerID's first post.

The points about publicity for their speeds, and the false conclusion that their product makes nicking the neighbour's bandwidth unnecessary are exactly what occurred to me.

What's the point of forking out for their product if you can access it from next door?

I don't think Mr Tobak read that back to himself :).
Posted by cick4internet over 2 years ago
If you forgot to lock your front door and the neighbors went in and ate all your food I guess that's still wrong on the neighbors part, but you really should lock the front door :-)
Posted by tmcr over 2 years ago
No guessing required. A quick survey of the 7 VM WiFi connections I can 'see' here reveals that 6 of those have the default password... No prize for working out which is the only one that has been changed :-)
Posted by TheEulerID over 2 years ago
Is there still a default VM password? I know that SPs used to ship their WiFi routers that way, but I would have thought that practice died out long ago. Perhaps there's a lot of old VM kit out there.
Posted by Dixinormous over 2 years ago
@uniquename Dana Tobak is, like most called Dana, female dude.

I am quite sure my neighbours are using my WiFi, they have their own SSID isolated from my network.
Posted by Dixinormous over 2 years ago
@tmcr - an SSID isn't a password. VM's Superhubs don't have a default known wireless password, never have, it's generated randomly.
Posted by uniquename over 2 years ago
Am I a dude?
Posted by comnut over 2 years ago
the default password for the new VM hub I got a few months ago was 'changeme' or similar...
Posted by comnut over 2 years ago
The SSID is the password to login for wireless access..

A different password is/must be used to login to the router to CHANGE your wifi password so your neighbour cannot use your wifi!!!
Posted by comnut over 2 years ago
gigabit over wifi??? not possible...

you can *almost* get it, if you spend £100's on super routers, giant aerials, hacked software....
Posted by dogbark over 2 years ago
...or 802.11 ad.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 2 years ago
The SSID is the name of the network, and is broadcast in the plain usually.

There are subsequent passwords used for WEP/WPA/WPA2 encryption which actually secure your Wi-Fi. Without an encryption key in use there is nothing to guess at all.
Posted by Dixinormous over 2 years ago
Changeme is the default management password for the VM hubs. Need to connect to it to use that.

The SSID is not the password for wireless access, it's just an ID that's connected to. The actual wireless password is printed on the hub and is different from the SSID.
Posted by comnut over 2 years ago
oops.. confuzzle... :/
Posted by comnut over 2 years ago

802.11ad?? well if you want to wait a year for 'line of sight' range...

AND get all new receivers to be able to use it, then problems when *everybody* starts using it!!!!
Posted by comnut over 2 years ago
ugh, damn... :(
here is the proper link about 802.11ad
Posted by bob_lucas over 2 years ago
Record the MAC Addresses for each Wi-Fi device in your household - and configure your router to apply MAC filtering. If you enable MAC filtering, your router will check MAC Addresses and accept connections from designated devices only. MAC filtering is a useful addition to password protection, because you can configure your router to block wireless connections from all unknown devices, even if the intruder knows the Wi-Fi password.
Posted by acpsd775 over 2 years ago
@ bob_lucas takes about 30 seconds to spoof a mac address and gain access
Posted by comnut over 2 years ago
um yes, but you need to *know* the MAC that will let you in!!
Posted by michaels_perry over 2 years ago
What concerns me is the misinformation this story has in it. Using someone elses' WiFi has no effect on the speed of their broadband between the router and exchange, known usually as the sync speed. That is not affected by some else using WiFi - you do and it makes not difference to your BB.
Posted by michaels_perry over 2 years ago
MAC filtering is a useful addition, not a cure for security issues. But as some say it is possible to 'spoof' a MAC address. But how many carry around the equipment needed to sniff them out? How many really bother? BT WiFi (formerly FON) is useful when and where available. If you're a BT Internet customer you get it free, else you can buy a pacjkage that lets youu use it legally.
Posted by comnut over 2 years ago
Read the article carefully - the title is pure 'clickbait' - NO MENTION is made of speed in the body of the text!... LOL..

Yes, the 'speed' may not be affected, BUT if the connection is overused, some 'bandwidth limiting' may start! :)
Posted by comnut over 2 years ago
my ISP speed may be 100Mb/s,

but that's not much use unless the stuff I want to download has that fast a server... :(

a recent ubuntu download managed 50Mb/s..
Posted by cyberdoyle over 2 years ago
I think iplayer only streams out about 35Mbps too, but they will go faster in years to come I am sure. Its multiple devices using the same connection that could pull it down if you haven't got enough speed to start with. I just tested my wifi. Using a second hand apple extreme v5 router. so I think its safe to say I will be ok for a couple of years with this? Its only using a fraction of the capacity of my feed. I get 900+ Mbps on wired. I can support 150 devices at the village hall. All streaming.
Posted by leexgx over 2 years ago
there is no thinking cyberdoyle it uses no more hen 2.8mb/s in HD or 1.4mb/s in normal when in full screen (mite have a burst speeds when it buffers)
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