Think Someone Is Hijacking Your WiFi? Here’s How You Can Tell and What To Do About It

Think Someone Is Hijacking Your WiFi? Here’s How You Can Tell and What To Do About It

Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.

Not only is illicit use of your wireless network a nuisance that can hinder its performance, but when people hack into your WiFi, it also poses serious security risks.

Fortunately, as the network administrator, there a couple ways you can detect whether a neighbor or other stranger is tapping into your WiFi. You can then take the appropriate measures to prevent this behavior and strengthen your overall network security.

How to sniff out WiFi intruders

One way to tell if someone could be using your wireless Internet connection is if you are experiencing a slower-than-normal speed while browsing or downloading content.

If you suspect that an outsider has tapped into your connection, try unplugging or turning off all of your wireless-capable devices that are connected to the Internet—including your smartphone, computer, gaming console, and television—and then go check your wireless router.

Typically, if the light continues to flicker (notwithstanding powering off all of the above), someone else may be using your WiFi.

This low-tech method of detection relies on you shutting down all devices and does not provide much additional information, but it is quick and easy.

Another more conclusive method is using an app that can search for any unfamiliar devices connected to your WiFi at unusual times and notify you if strange traffic is detected. Apps that can perform such a function include Wi-Fi Inspector or Wireless Network Watcher.

You also can log into your router’s administration page and check the list of IP addresses, Media Access Control (MAC) addresses, and detectable names for devices connected to your WiFi. The name of the section with that list will differ based on your router, but it should be called something akin to “My Network,” “Attached Devices,” or “Device List.” You can check this list against the devices within your house or apartment that you know to be connected to the WiFi. Not only can you track network activity through the admin console, but you also can change security settings.

Ways to prevent unwanted use of your WiFi

Once you determine a neighbor or other person is habitually logging into your network, you should take steps to prevent this illicit behavior. Here are a few ways to put a stop to outsiders accessing your network:

1. Update router password

First, you should strengthen the security on your network. That may mean changing the default router name and password for people who have not already done so. In general, changing the password will likely boot off all the devices currently connected. Then you will be rid of unwanted freeloaders and can reconnect your personal devices using the new password. When choosing an updated password, it is typically advised to make it long and reasonably complex that you can still remember. You also can change the router name by accessing the Service Set Identifier, typically located under the wireless settings menu.

2. Strengthen security

Choose the strongest wireless network encryption that is currently available, or WPA2, which is compatible with most devices manufactured after 2006. Stay away from WEP and WPA if possible, as they both tend to be less secure. You may have to choose the option WPA + WPA Personal to make sure all your own devices can connect to the network.

3. Try a network monitoring tool

If you are more serious about detecting not only if someone is stealing your WiFi, but also who or where they are generally located, you can try a mobile tracking software tool such as MoocherHunter, a part of the OSWA-Assistant wireless auditing toolkit. Law enforcement agencies in Asia and elsewhere use the software to geo-locate wireless hackers from the traffic they send across the network. You can triangulate the physical location of the unwanted user, down to 2 meters accuracy, thanks to the directional antenna on your wireless card.

What is at risk from illicit network use?

When other users tap into your connection, unbeknownst to you, it not only decreases performance, but also poses a significant security risk. Your Internet connection will likely slow down and you may find your devices getting inexplicably disconnected from your router. According to Lifehacker.com, neighbors and other hackers can access shared folders on your network, depending on the security measures you use, allowing them to steal important data. They can even hack into the smart devices in your home and engage in illegal file downloading or illegal music/video sharing.

If you suspect someone is stealing your WiFi, it is time to give them the boot. By updating passwords and choosing a secure wireless network encryption, you can make your network safer and less permeable, protecting it from unwanted access and activity.

Want to know more about your neighborhood? Plug an address into NeighborWho’s property finder and see what you can find!

Are You Ready For Winter? Here’s How To Winterproof Your Home In A Few Steps

Are You Ready For Winter? Here’s How To Winterproof Your Home In A Few Steps

Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.

If you’re a homeowner, winterproofing your home is just a seasonal chore. But if you’re a new homeowner, you may not know where to start. Before the first snowfall, here are a few steps you may want to take to avoid making emergency repairs in the cold.

1 – Insulate pipes

Insulation may not just keep your hot water, well, hot, but it may also prevent pipes from bursting. This can cause significant and costly damage to your home, and may lead to other hard-to-fix issues, such as water damage and a mold infestation. When water in your home’s pipes freeze, that can lead to cracks. Eventually, those cracks get larger, and the water’s pressure can cause the pipes to burst. Prevent this from happening by insulating the pipes in the coldest parts of your house (places such as attics and crawl spaces), keeping cabinets open to let heat circulate closer to the pipes, and occasionally letting water drip from faucets to keep water flowing.

2 – Clean your gutters

Cleaning out your home’s gutters is an important step in protecting your home from the winter weather: dead leaves and debris stuck in the gutters can prevent water flow. But it’s not the only precaution to see to outside. To better protect your house’s foundation, take steps to make sure that any water can easily be diverted away from your home, via a downspout. Don’t forget to maintain trees and other large shrubbery: all it takes is one heavy snowfall or a gust of icy wind to knock down branches, which can take down power lines (or worse) with them.

3 –  Check your roof

Your roof is an important defense against the winter weather, and certain bad circumstances can cause it to fail and let water or ice seep into your home. Accumulating snow, for example, can cause an older roof to collapse. Consider getting a roof rake with a long handle so you can remove snow without risking your safety and wellbeing.

4 – Stock up on the right tools

Shovels and salt are generally no-brainers for homeowners, but don’t forget emergency kits and flashlights. Bad winter weather can easily knock out power in some neighborhoods, so you may want to be prepared — especially if you’re expecting to host guests for longer than a day. Get bottled water, OTC medications, and pre-packaged food that doesn’t need to be heated or refrigerated. Batteries, a battery-powered radio, and a charged phone are also great items to add to your arsenal.

5  – Think beyond the obvious

You may be thinking about protecting your home from the winter weather, but you may want to think about how to protect it from the criminals who take advantage of this time of year to scam unsuspecting homeowners. Invest in home automation with a front-facing security camera, or a doorbell with a camera, so you can see who’s at your door. This time of year, thieves may steal packages from your porch, and if you want to catch them in the act, some of these tools may be helpful.

If you’re a homeowner with an elderly or disabled neighbor, offer your services: help them shovel snow from their driveway, pick up groceries, or offer them a care package. Some criminals may pose as do-gooders, only to scam more vulnerable individuals or steal their belongings when invited into their home.   

Don’t forget to check up on and help neighbors who may not have the tools and resources to protect themselves. A helping hand or a phone call can go a long way!

Want to know more about your neighborhood? Plug an address into NeighborWho’s property finder and see what you can find!

The Watcher: A Family Finally Breaks Its Silence About Its 4-Year-Long Ordeal

The Watcher: A Family Finally Breaks Its Silence About Its 4-Year-Long Ordeal

In June 2014, the Broadduses thought that they were moving into their dream home, but when they started receiving creepy and terrifying letters, they suddenly realized they were wrong.

At the time, 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey, was a beautiful 6-bedroom house, built in 1905, that sits on an expansive, nearly 20,000 square foot lot. The neighborhood prides itself on being an idyllic setting: just 45 minutes away from New York, its residents are mostly families who would typically be considered, by many accounts, to be wealthy. Westfield is, in fact, the 99th-richest city in America, the 18th-richest in New Jersey, and was recently named the country’s 30th-safest town. Amongst the locals, the chief complaint in recent history was the temporary shutdown of the Trader Joe’s, due to a roof collapse. Boulevard is largely considered to be one of the most desirable streets in town: wide, tree-lined, and with some of the more expensive homes in the area.

Derek and Maria Broaddus were in the process of making some renovations when they received the first anonymous letter. They had closed on the home for about $1.3 million. The letter, a card-shaped note in a white envelope, had been postmarked on June 4th — before the sale of the home had been made public. There was no return address.

Little did the couple know that this would be the first in a string of increasingly threatening letters they would receive at 657 Boulevard — angry messages that not just targeted them, but also their three young children.

At first, the first letter seemed innocuous, even welcoming.

Dearest new neighbor at 657 Boulevard,
Allow me to welcome you to the neighborhood.

But as Derek read on, the writer’s tone shifted, suggesting a more hostile intent. The writer spoke of bringing “young blood” into the house and questioned why the Broadduses had moved in. He promised to watch the house, the children inside, and to “lure” them to him. Whether the letter was a nasty prank, the delusions of an angry neighbor, or the empty threats of a bitter rival buyer, it was a scary start to a new life: the writer, who called himself “The Watcher” had already done his research. He seemed to know a lot about the family despite them having not yet moved in: he had taken note of what their car looked like and the kinds of renovations being made on the house — which he had made clear in the letter that he was deeply unhappy with.

Derek, who was alone in 657 Boulevard at the time, went straight to the police. Authorities said that there was not much to be done with just a letter and no other lead.

The Broadduses were on high alert every time they visited their new house. Derek and Maria kept their children close at all times, fearing that The Watcher would make good on his promise to “lure them” and even hurt them.

Two weeks later, the second letter came in the mail. This time, The Watcher knew the children’s names and stated them in the letter, referring to them as “young blood.” He assured the couple that he had been, and would continue to watch the family very closely.

All of the windows and doors in 657 Boulevard allow me to watch you and track you as you move through the house. Who am I? I am the Watcher and have been in control of 657 Boulevard for the better part of two decades now. 

At this point, Derek and Maria stopped bringing their kids to the new house. Several weeks later, a third letter came, demanding to know where they had gone.

Not only did the couple not want their children in the home and neighborhood, they were giving up on their dream home. While 657 Boulevard was everything they wanted in a house (they had poured money into its renovations, turning it into a house now valued at over $1 million), they felt unsafe and worried about the future. The idea of living there and at the mercy of The Watcher, an anonymous stalker tormenting them and following their every move, filled them with anxiety. By the time the third letter had arrived at the home, the couple decided to launch an official investigation into the identity of The Watcher, sell the home, and sue the couple who lived there before them. The sellers had apparently failed to disclose they they received a letter from the stalker too, just a few days before moving out. While this isn’t illegal in New Jersey, the Broadduses felt that they should have been told if the new residents would be threatened this way.    

The investigation did not yield much. There were some suspects, neighbors who fit the profile of the suspected stalker. The Watcher had left no digital footprint, but most people, including the authorities, agreed that he must live in close proximity to the house. Derek started sleeping with a knife nearby and Maria suffered from nightmares, and when the Westfield authorities were left with no leads on the culprit, the couple launched a private investigation that was just as inconclusive.

In the four years that have passed since Derek and Maria received The Watcher’s first letter, they’ve made many attempts to get rid of the house. With no one wanting to buy it, they tried petitioning to destroy 657 Boulevard, split the lot into two, and to rebuild. The neighbors were infuriated, and the town denied the request. Luckily, a man only identified as “Chris” decided to rent the home for some time, but it wasn’t enough income to help the Broadduses pay down their mortgage. While the renter occupied the home, a fourth letter arrived: it was the most ominous of all the notes, threatening violence against the family and vowing to get revenge for trying to tear down the house. More scared than ever, they wanted the case to be pursued, but there was little for investigators to go on, much like in the beginning, when the whole ordeal started.  

Derek and Maria have finally opened up about the “haunting” of their home to New York Magazine, and have made details about The Watcher’s letters public. Derek himself has revealed to the publication that last Christmas, he delivered anonymous, copycat letters to former neighbors — especially those who were the most critical and unsympathetic to the family’s plight, and those who did not believe in plausible threat The Watcher posed.

Westfield Police have yet to identify a suspect, and The Watcher has not been heard from since February 2017, when the fourth letter was sent.

The house, 657 Boulevard, is also back on the market for about $1.1 million.

[H/T]: New York Magazine

Want To Improve Your Neighborhood? Here Are 10 Ways You Can Take Action Immediately

Want To Improve Your Neighborhood? Here Are 10 Ways You Can Take Action Immediately

If you’re a homeowner, you may have spent months, even years investing in and improving the look and feel of your house. You’ve turned it into your personal oasis. It has all the amenities you need and want, and all the renovations you’ve made perfectly reflect your personal taste.

Creating the home you want doesn’t just end at your property’s boundaries. Take a look at your neighborhood. Could it use a little sprucing up? Do you think you can make a positive impact on the appearance and safety of your streets, sidewalks, playgrounds, and other public spaces? If you think you can make your neighborhood a better place to live, here are 10 ways you can take action immediately.

1- Pick up litter near your home.

A little cleaning goes a long way. If trash was thrown on the sidewalk that runs by your home, take a few seconds to put it in the garbage. If everyone on your street did this, you would have a clean, trash-free street in no time!

2- Support local businesses.

Supporting local business can help improve the local economy, keeping the neighborhood unique. Thriving small businesses in your area may help boost the desirability of living in that particular area. This may, in turn, increase the value of the properties around it — possibly yours. Supporting local entrepreneurs may also allow you to meet new people, keeping the neighborhood friendly and open to newcomers.

3- Volunteer.

There may be more opportunities to volunteer in your neighborhood than you think, whether it’s at the local public library or in a community garden. All you need to do is ask! Volunteering, whether it’s cleaning up, helping out at an after-school program, or just keeping others company, can benefit the people around you in unseen ways and bring the community closer together.

4- Talk to and help your neighbors.

Even if you prefer keeping to yourself, it’s important to connect with your neighbors — you never know when you may need their help, or if they’ll ever need yours. They can keep an eye on your house and alert you should there ever be some suspicious activity on your property. If you have an elderly neighbor, help them shovel snow in the wintertime. If you have kids, your neighbor may end up being the person you trust the most to keep them safe when you’re away.   

5- Donate.

You don’t have to donate money to improve the quality of life in your neighborhood. If there is a local charity near you, try donating some gently used coats, clothes, and accessories— you never know who among the people around you is secretly struggling. It doesn’t matter who gets your previously owned items — just know that you’re helping them out in a huge way!

6- Help improve neighborhood safety.

There are so many ways you can help increase neighborhood safety, both on your own and with the help of your neighbors. Less crime in your area means a better quality of life! Check out all the ways you can start keeping you, your family, and your neighbors safe.

7- Plant a tree.

Trees and plants help improve air quality, which may lead to fresher, cleaner air in your neighborhood. Plus, they’re pleasant to look at, and provide shade in the summer months and can improve mental health. Get together with some neighbors and start planting: it’s a win-win situation!

8- Use your car less: bike, walk, or use public transportation.

If you want to improve both your neighborhood and the environment at large, use your car as little as possible. If you can bike or walk to your destination, do so! If everyone made the same effort, there could be less congestion on the streets. Additionally, you’ll get more exercise, and that’s a good thing!

9- Set up an emergency preparedness network and establish an action plan.

If you live in a high-risk area for natural disasters like wildfires, earthquakes, mudslides, hurricanes, and tornadoes (to name a few), communicate with your neighbors: how would you keep each other safe and alive in the event of an emergency? Make plans to check on each other or to help transport groups of people to a safe zone, when necessary. You may also want to have a way to communicate in case phone lines are down.

10- Promote literacy.

One of the greatest advantages of having a home is that you can set up a small, free library on your property. No, it doesn’t mean inviting people into your home — all it takes is a single bookshelf. Homeowners can set up small “give one, take one” book exchanges in front of their houses that allow anyone to do just that: leave a finished book on the shelf while taking out a new one for free. This way, children in the area may have greater access to literature and knowledge. Who knows, you may help them get better scores on tests and do better in school!

These are only a few ways you can help improve your neighborhood, but any small, positive change can make a world of difference in the quality of life of your and your neighbors. Don’t underestimate the power of your actions!

Want to know more about your neighborhood? Plug an address into NeighborWho’s property finder and see what you can find!

Help! A Sex Offender Moved Into My Neighborhood. What Should I Do?

Help! A Sex Offender Moved Into My Neighborhood. What Should I Do?

Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.

Imagine this scenario: you’ve lived in the same neighborhood for months, even years, and feel quite at home there. You have everything you need in your immediate area and have turned your house into a real home. You love your neighbors and get along with them. Then, one day, you receive an official notice that a sex offender has moved in.

If you live alone or with a significant other, this may frighten you, and you may think of this person as a threat. If you have children you may be particularly frightened. You may be tempted to keep an eye on your family’s every move, accompanying them wherever they go. But even if this news sounds off some alarm bells, here are a few steps you can take to not just help you and your family stay safe, but stay calm too.

Know who’s around you.

If you are concerned that there are unknown sex offenders living in your neighborhood be advised that the federal government requires that all states release information to the public on registered sex offenders. This is “Meghan’s Law,” enacted by President Bill Clinton in 1996. However, it is up to each state to determine how to notify community residents. Law enforcement is, for example, sometimes required to notify residents either via fliers or community notification meetings.

States are required to keep a registry of convicted sex offenders, and there may even be online maps that show where they live. If you live next to a school or park, your neighborhood may not necessarily be clear of sex offenders: every state or jurisdiction has its own laws about where sex offenders can live and how close to places such as schools, parks, playgrounds, and even houses of worship. For greater peace of mind, you may want to check up on these laws with your local government. Often, specific details about a given sex offender’s crimes may even be available.

There is also a national database of sex offenders. The National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) created by the U.S. Department of Justice allows users to search by name, state, zip code, or even address (but only if the state allows the NSOPW to access address information).

Stay calm, alert, and vigilant.

Once you are certain that a sex offender or sexual predator lives in close proximity to you and your family, it is especially important to stay calm yet aware of your surroundings. In addition to keeping an eye on the state or national registries, take steps to learn skills that will help you stay safe. Panicking may ultimately be unproductive. Instead, communicate your knowledge to those around you. With children especially, create the sense that nothing has changed — but prepare them for dangerous situations.

Remember, unfortunately, many sexual predators may not have been caught yet. According to some experts, 95% of new sex crimes are committed by people whose names have not yet been added to the registries. Additionally, three-quarters of sex crimes are believed to be committed by someone familiar to the victim — not a stranger.

Talk to your children, if you have them — but be careful what you say.

Adults can typically comprehend the feelings of anxiety and fear and can generally digest information better than children can, but this doesn’t mean that “little ones” should be kept in the dark. Communicate the severity of the situation, but in gentler terms and in a soothing tone. You don’t have to fully explain the grisly, graphic details of a sex offender’s crime: simply say that that person’s behavior can hurt them, so they should stay away from them. Add that, if the sex offender gets too close, the child should immediately find an adult with whom they feel safe. If you feel that you might benefit or are especially motivated, you could also consider reaching out to local law enforcement or child protective services to determine the best way to communicate this to your children.

If the sex offender is someone you know, or someone who spent time around your child…

While it’s not ideal, sometimes a newly convicted sex offender happens to be someone with whom you’re acquainted. It may be the relative of your or your children’s friend, a next-door neighbor you get along with, or even someone you see almost everyday, like a grocery-store employee.

To ensure your safety and that of your children, you may want to consider cutting ties with that person or perhaps those who work with or live closely to that person. If your child’s friend lives with the sex offender in question, move all play dates to your home instead of letting your child go to their friend’s house — this way, you are the one supervising them and retain some control.

In the event that the offender is a friend of yours, you may want to consider severing ties or limiting contact with that person for the safety of your family.

Whatever the case, you may wish to consider prioritizing safety over the historic relationship you have with the offender or those people who spend much time with them.

Know where your kids are and what they’re doing — even if it means “annoying” them.

More likely than not, kids are more than happy to tell you how “annoying” you are by not giving them their space. Sure, teenagers who want their freedom are likely to lash out at any parent’s attempt to hinder that transition into adulthood. But if you’re a parent of a minor, know that having your child yell at you from time to time is well worth it if it means keeping them safe. Have them check in with you throughout the day, and have them tell you where they are, who they’re with, and what they’re doing. They may not always be telling the truth, but at least you’ll hear from them regularly.

If you’re the parent of a small child, know who is spending time near your kids whether they’re on a playdate, attending an after-school activity, or even on their morning walk to school.

Practice safety techniques with them, and give them knowledge to defend themselves.

Regular practice of safety techniques teach your family how to assess a situation and determine whether or not they are in danger. You can even practice these methods in your own home by simulating how you believe a dangerous person may try and approach your child. For example: you can have your child or teenager learn how to politely reject an accoster, then immediately seek out a safe space where there are other adults.

However, these skills are of little use if you don’t give your child some space. You can gradually increase the amount of independence they have if they’re at an age that they are just now starting to leave home without you to accompany them or absent your direct supervision.

Most importantly, teach your child how to say “no.” This may be the most important tool in the arsenal, as it may protect them against emotional and physical coercion, unsafe games, or inappropriate touching.

Living in the same neighborhood as a sex offender can be scary, especially if you have children, but it doesn’t mean you have to move. By staying informed and alert, you can take steps to better protect and keep you and your family safe! Check out other ways you can help improve neighborhood safety.

Want to know more about your neighborhood? Plug an address into NeighborWho’s property finder and see what you can find!

Alarming New Report Claims That Nearly Half Of All Cell Phone Calls Will Be Scams By 2019

Alarming New Report Claims That Nearly Half Of All Cell Phone Calls Will Be Scams By 2019

An alarming new report says that the volume of calls from unknown numbers is on the rise.  According to Inquisitr, First Orion claims that “nearly half of all calls to mobile phones will be fraudulent in 2019 unless the industry adopts and implements more effective call protection solutions.”

To many of us, that may not come as a huge surprise: everyday, thousands of cell phone owners are plagued by robocallers and scammers who are now using a technique called ‘neighbor spoofing’ to essentially trick people into picking up. There are two prevalent neighbor spoofing techniques: robocallers use a number with the same area code and exchange as your own (a.k.a., the first six numbers), or when scammers impersonate and modify phone numbers from neighbors, friends, and local business to entice you to pick up the phone.

The company first released a report in 2017 that claimed that only 3.7 percent of calls received on cell phones were from scammers. That has grown to a whopping 44.6 percent projected in this latest report.

First Orion Corp., a company that specializes in cell phone protection, analyzed over 50 billion calls made to tens of millions of cell phone users to determine the number. The company is currently partnered with many mobile phone companies such as Sprint, T Mobile, Virgin Mobile, MetroPCS, and Tracfone.

Their in-network technology has allowed them to both identify new scam methods and prevent scam calls by warning the mobile phone users which calls may be fraudulent. However, many people still use third-party call blocking apps: because neighbor spoofing allows the scammer to disguise their phone number, these apps are not as effective as in-network technology.

Read more on how to know if you are the victim of neighbor spoofing by checking out the NeighborWho blog.

Are you a NeighborWho subscriber? Try our Phone Search to lookup those suspicious numbers and protect yourself against telemarketers, scammers, and robocallers.

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