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Who's on my WiFi? Here's how to secure your wireless network

Arizona Republic logo Arizona Republic 8/17/2020 Ken Colburn, Special for The Republic

QUESTION: Is there a simple way to see what is connected to my wireless network?

ANSWER: Making sure that unauthorized devices aren’t connecting to your Wi-Fi network is an essential process to ensure your network is secure.

If an outsider gains access to your WiFi network, they can potentially gain access to your devices and the sensitive data stored on them, but there are a variety of ways to see what’s connecting.

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Router control panel

The best way to see what’s connecting to your network is through the admin interface that’s built into every router. 

In order to use it, you’ll need the admin username and password, which on most newer routers is printed on a label on the router itself.

Many routers also offer mobile apps that you can install on your smartphone to access and manage it.

If you have an older router, you can look up the default username and password for just about any brand and model as long as no one has changed it from the default.

As a last resort, you can use the physical reset option for your router to return everything to factory defaults. This process is usually executed by using a paperclip to push a small button in a pinhole on the router that is generally labeled as ‘Reset.'

You can also do a Google search for "factory reset (brand and model)" for the exact instructions for your router.

Once you’ve gained access to the settings interface, you should see an option for "Attached Devices," which will list out every device connected to the router.

The information listed may seem a bit confusing, but if you click on each item, the additional details will help you determine what the device is and whether it’s one of yours or not.

A less technical option

If you weren’t able to find an app for your router or couldn’t access it through the admin portal, you can use the Fing app or desktop program to see what’s on your network.

Once you have the app installed, make sure your device is connected to your WiFi network, then run a scan to produce a list of connected devices.

A simple way to see if you should be concerned about an unauthorized device is by counting the number of devices you know are connecting (including the router itself) compare it to the list. 

You can drill down on each device to get helpful information such as the brand of the device, the operating system that it’s running and how long it’s been connected to your network.

If you can’t figure out what something is, go to the "Network details" section and look for the MAC vendor entry.

If you do a Google search using the MAC vendor information, you should be able to find the products that the company makes and whether it’s one of yours or not.

Needless to say, if you determine that an unauthorized device has connected to your network, make sure you change the WiFi password in your router and reconnect all your devices with the new password.

Ken Colburn is the founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services, Ask any tech question at or on Twitter @TheDataDoc.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Who's on my WiFi? Here's how to secure your wireless network


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