A Wi-Fi warning

Linksys WRT54G About two weeks ago, I was staying with Rose’s aunt in Los Angeles, and she was having some problems with her wireless network, so I offered to take a look. Well, I’ll spare you the details of the problem, but I fooled around with her Linksys router basestation and the range-extender box she’d bought, but without much success. I’m too embarrassed to admit how long it took me to realise what was up.

Her network was using the network name ‘linksys’, which is the default configuration for their boxes. It was only when I started running proper snooping tools on my laptop that I realised that there were three routers using that name which were visible from the study where her PC was located. Two of her neighbours had the same boxes and had also not reconfigured them. I come from a land of brick buildings where the problem is usually one of not even getting a strong signal from your own network, rather than seeing too many. Anyway, for some months she had unwittingly been using her neighbours’ broadband connection while her own lay idle. And for some hours I had been reconfiguring their routers by accident, because they still had the default login and password as well.

I switched the wireless off on my laptop and plugged in directly to her router using ethernet to make sure I knew which one I was talking to, gave the wireless network a new name and suddenly things started to make sense. My normal practice, by the way, is to name the network with something which makes its location obvious (mine’s “20MarloweRd”) so that if anybody else has problems with my signal, they know where it’s coming from.

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© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser