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It's official! Someone has been leeching off my wireless service

Posted: January 03, 2008 in Tech

A couple of months ago, I got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom (a common occurrence for me) and while doing so noticed something fishing out in front of the house. The master bathroom has a window that looks out front, and you can kind of see out of it while sitting on the "throne". Well, something odd caught my eye, so I parted the blinds and took a peek. What I saw was a dark colored VW Golf, maybe late 90's, sitting on the side of the road next to our driveway. The windows seemed darkly tinted, so I couldn't see inside, but I could make out the dull, rectangular glow of what looked to be a laptop screen.

I dismissed the sighting as belonging to the teenagers that lived across the street - that house is a rental, and people were always in and out of there. But it was still odd, and I wondered what they might be up to, other than waiting for a girlfriend to sneak out of a bedroom window.

A few weeks later, I see the car again. This time it's daytime, and it's just parked. I can't see inside it, so I just dismiss it. But it does pull off as soon as I pull into the driveway. Yeah, weird.

Another late night trip to the bathroom, and I see it again, laptop aglow. I start to wonder if they're out scouting for unsecured wireless home networks, but I don't worry much, since our wireless router has 128-bit WEP encryption. However, a few days later, while yakking to a friend on AIM, I learn that WEP encryption can be hacked in around 5 minutes. Great. "Those little sons of bitches," I think. "They've been leeching off my wireless!"

So I check my router's logs (what little there is of them, since my shitty D-Link only keeps logs back for around a day), and sure enough, there's a mac address that doesn't belong to anything I own. Needless to say, off went the wireless portion of the router, at least until I can figure out if WPA is safe.

By the way, just to check, I walked out to that spot with the laptop, and from the exact spot they were parking, I can see three wireless networks. But mine is (of course) the strongest signal, since they're practically sitting in my garage at that point.

So now I'm irked, and a bit spooked. I know that they could at least surf the web using my IP address. But could they access files on my PC? Not that I have anything of importance, unless they fancy a copy of my resume. I don't really have anything of value, and neither does Jessica's PC. But still, surfing the web as me makes me worry a bit. What if they were running some sort of botnet? What if they were downloading something questionable? If two men in suits with white, coil-corded earphones and dark sunglesses show up at my door, what am I going to say?

I think I'm going to call the police and file a report or something, just for the record. But half of me wants to sit out in front of the house and wait for the leeches, so I can at least get a tag number. But if I don't have an open wireless network, will they stick around? If I leave the network open so they do stick around, what sort of things will they be able to do before I can catch them? Who knows, maybe I'm just being paranoid and they were just sitting around surfing Youtube and getting stoned, but why would you be sitting in front of a stranger's house at 3am unless you were doing something fishy? It just doesn't make sense.

The whole situation sucks, and I'm not sure what to do, other than keeping them off my network.

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