The thought of saying ‘no’ when someone innocuously asks to connect to your router may seem rude, but it could have consequences.
Lending your Wi-Fi password to a friend or a neighbour is a relatively common occurrence, but there are a number of risks you must consider before doing so.
Potential dangers stretch from an individual visiting illegal websites under your IP address to having malware spread to your devices.
One of the more likely occurrences is that someone you give your Wi-Fi password to will use it for nefarious means.
If someone else uses your internet connection to download illegal content, it will leave an online trail back to your router.
A friend could choose to download a film or TV series illegally at your home to avoid putting themselves at risk.
You could find yourself with a large fine in the mail or potentially have the authorities pay you a visit.
Malware can spread.
You may share your password with someone who you completely trust and know would never take advantage of your kindness.
However, even a trustworthy friend or family member connecting to your network could still spell disaster.
Malware often works in the background, meaning the person may be totally unaware of the infection when they connect.
If a device, such as a smartphone, is infected with malware and connects to your Wi-Fi, it could go on to attack your own computers, phones, and tablets as it spreads.
They could use up all your data.
Nearly all broadband providers offer unlimited downloads and no data caps, so you may think this won’t affect you.
However, most unlimited packages are either known as ‘standard unlimited’ or ‘truly unlimited’.
With standard unlimited packages, there can be restrictions, like traffic management and fair use policies.
If you hand out your password to someone who makes very large and regular downloads, your internet service provider could say you are abusing the fair use policy. They could slow down the speed of your connection and, in serious cases, terminate your connection.
Users can see connections.
Letting someone connect to your Wi-Fi network is effectively giving someone access to a system where data comes in and goes out.
A tech-savvy person could utilize free computer programs to scan your network, which will provide a list of every device currently connected.
Can you get your IP blocked from websites?
Internet users on your Wi-Fi can’t still make life awkward for you even if they don’t engage in illegal activity.
Certain websites, including social media and online games, can issue IP bans to users who have violated their terms of service or cheated.
This means that access to the specific website will be blocked for everyone on the same Wi-Fi, not just their specific account.
The bans are not always permanent, and you are able to change your IP address.
They could use your password.
Wi-Fi passwords are notoriously difficult to remember, full of random numbers and odd capital letters.
Many people resort to sticking their password on their fridge or saving it as a photo on their phone.
But some choose to rename their password to something they can remember—another password they already use. This runs the risk of someone being able to access your accounts.
They could hog all the bandwidth.
Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transferred from your router to your devices at any given time, or the speed of your internet.
The median average internet speed in the UK is around 50 Mbps, which can handle around two to three video streams of normal quality and some additional online browsing.
If you’re watching a movie in 4K while your friend or neighbor is downloading large files and playing an online game, you may find everything becomes sluggish.
Perform illegal activities online.
Online activity on your Wi-Fi will be traceable back to you, including actions that break the law without visiting illegal websites.
Bullying, trolling, and hate speech occur regularly online, and authorities do respond to reports.
When the trolling is done via an anonymous account, the profile may be traced back to its IP address.
If your friend engages in online activity on your Wi-Fi that has real-world repercussions, you may find yourself being visited by the police.
They could use other devices on the network.
While less serious than some of the other potential actions, someone using your devices via your Wi-Fi can be frustrating.
Many people have devices such as printers, an Amazon Alexa, speakers, and even hard drives connected to their internet.
It allows users to control aspects of their home via their phone, but by sharing your Wi-Fi password, you are potentially letting others use these devices.
It may be accidental, but you would likely be annoyed if a song you were listening to via a Wi-Fi speaker was interrupted by your neighbors’ tunes.
They could share your password around.
If you live in a block of flats or an area where there are a large number of possible Wi-Fi connections, handing out your password could cause trouble.
If you share your password with one person, they could go on to share it with several others, increasing the likelihood of illegal activity occurring via your IP address.
A trusted neighbor may not abuse your Wi-Fi, but a person who doesn’t know you may see it as an opportunity.
(Story first published in Daily Mail online)